Early voting opens Saturday, with Senate seat on ballot

BATON ROUGE — The weeklong period for voters to cast early ballots in the Dec. 10 runoff election opens Saturday, with a U.S. Senate seat, two U.S. House seats and dozens of municipal races remaining to be settled.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler, Louisiana’s top elections official, said lines should be short during the long holiday weekend and early voting, which runs through Dec. 3, “should be quick and easy.”

“Turnout for general elections in December is historically low, around 20 percent compared to almost 70 percent in November, and we know a lot of voters will be out of town with family which means little or no waiting for those wanting to cast their ballot early,” he said in a statement.

SENATE RACE

Top of the ballot is the competition for a U.S. Senate seat, which is open because Republican David Vitter decided against running for re-election. The race was whittled from 24 candidates in the November primary to two, Democrat Foster Campbell and Republican John Kennedy. Both men have been in public office for decades.

Campbell, a state utility regulator with the Public Service Commission, is a populist who says he can work across party lines. He supports an increase in the minimum wage, equal pay legislation and an effort to force the oil and gas industry to pay for state coastal restoration efforts. He touts his endorsement from Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and ties Kennedy to Vitter, who lost the governor’s race last year and has endorsed Kennedy.

Kennedy, the state treasurer, is the front-runner and is seeking to keep the competition a partisan one, making Donald Trump a wedge issue. Kennedy is touting his support of the president-elect and said he’ll work with Trump in Washington to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, to “drain the swamp” and to bolster the GOP congressional majority. Trump won 58 percent of the vote in Louisiana.

Louisiana’s runoff will decide the nation’s last U.S. Senate seat.

THE REST OF THE BALLOT

While four of Louisiana’s congressional seats were decided in November, the races for two open U.S. House seats were so packed that they headed to two-man December runoffs.

Two Republicans are facing off for the open 3rd District U.S. House seat representing southwest and south central Louisiana: Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, the third-place finisher in last year’s governor’s race; and former sheriff’s Capt. Clay Higgins, dubbed the “Cajun John Wayne” for his Crime Stoppers segments that drew national attention.

Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District seat representing northwest Louisiana is a Republican versus Democrat showdown. Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson of Benton is battling Democratic lawyer Marshall Jones of Shreveport for the job.

The seats are open because Republican incumbents Charles Boustany and John Fleming unsuccessfully ran for the Senate instead of re-election.

Several judgeships and municipal races await decisions, like the Baton Rouge mayor’s race. Schedler’s office said 156 propositions also are on the ballot in 44 parishes.

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