BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — As the four major candidates for Louisiana governor square off Thursday in their first televised debate, Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter will seek to maintain his front-runner status among GOP candidates, while his rivals try to distinguish themselves.
Vitter has led the Republican field for months, but his poll numbers in recent weeks have slipped as outside groups have slammed him in TV and radio spots reminding voters of his 2007 prostitution scandal.
Despite the attacks, his two chief GOP rivals in the race — Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne — have been unable to pull ahead because they are battling over the same voters in the Oct. 24 election. And they've been hit with attack ads by both Vitter and a super PAC supporting him.
The lone major Democratic contender, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, appears to have locked up enough of his party's base that he's projected to be on track for the Nov. 21 runoff with Vitter, unless something shifts in the remaining three weeks before the election. No one's been attacking Edwards, because the Republicans have been largely striking at each other.
Louisiana's open primary places all candidates, regardless of party, in a showdown against each other. If no one receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff.
Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is making a long-shot bid for the GOP presidential nomination, is term-limited and will exit the governor's mansion in January.
Thursday night's hour-long debate at WDSU-TV in New Orleans will be aired in several media markets.
Though a previous forum was televised, Vitter didn't participate. Angelle, Dardenne and Edwards have criticized the U.S. senator, saying he skips most events where he can't see questions in advance.
Also scheduled to participate Thursday are two lesser-known candidates: Democrat Cary Deaton and Jeremy Odom, an independent.
Outside of the New Orleans area, people can watch the 6 p.m. debate on KALB-TV in Alexandria, KAQY-TV in Monroe and KTBS-TV in Shreveport. KLFY-TV in Lafayette will stream the debate live on its website.
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Posted on Thu, October 1, 2015
by MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press