BATON ROUGE — While the national political focus shifted Wednesday from election debates to governing, the campaign season hasn’t wrapped up in Louisiana, with several races headed to a December runoff.
At the top of the list is the 3rd Congressional District race, where the nasty fight between Republican incumbents Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry continues until Dec. 8, promising a renewed barrage of attack ads in southwest Louisiana and Acadiana.
“There’s burnout here. I haven’t met one person that says, ‘Gee, this is great, we’re going to a runoff.’ Everyone’s like, ‘Oh no, more. Here we go,’” said Pearson Cross, chair of the political science department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Also undecided is who will take an open seat on the Louisiana Supreme Court representing the Baton Rouge region and a list of scattered local races. More than 100 issues, from police chief and mayor jobs to local tax issues, will be up for decision across parishes in December.
While the presidential race attracted a brisk turnout around the state, the next election isn’t expected to get such widespread attention.
Nearly 2 million people cast ballots in Louisiana for Tuesday’s election, tying figures for the 2008 presidential race, with 67 percent voter turnout, according to the Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s office.
Five of the state’s incumbent U.S. House members won re-election without need for a runoff. But Boustany and Landry had a rare problem, two congressmen shoved into the same district when Louisiana lost a congressional seat.
Though the two men had largely ignored their opponents and acted like it was a two-man race since the August election sign-up, neither incumbent exceeded 50 percent of the vote in the five-man field. Boustany, a retired doctor from Lafayette, led the pack with 45 percent of the vote.
Henry Sirgo, a political science and government studies professor at McNeese State University, said Boustany continues to have the advantage in a runoff.
The 3rd District design favored Boustany’s old district, and Sirgo said Boustany would be more likely to get support from moderates and Democrats than Landry, a tea party favorite from New Iberia.
However, Cross said Boustany loses some of the advantages he had in the large-turnout presidential race, where name recognition was useful with voters who don’t regularly show up at the polls.
A December runoff will have low turnout, with more chronic voters and committed partisans. The battle shifts, Cross said, to a straight push to get supporters to the polls.
“Everything’s changed now in this race. All the dynamics are completely out the window. This is a brand new race with a brand new electorate,” he said.
Boustany and Landry have both staked out similar positions as conservatives who oppose most of the policies of Democratic President Barack Obama.
They may get a chance to distinguish their platforms with the expected upcoming congressional “lame duck” session to deal with expiring tax breaks and looming budget cuts. The session will fall in the middle of the last month for Boustany and Landry’s campaigns.