Lieutenant Governor's Runoff A Low-Key Affair In Louisiana

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Pssst. You may not have heard, but Louisiana's in the midst of a lieutenant governor's race. It's been overshadowed by the state's competitive race for governor, which has sucked up most of the TV campaign advertising and media attention.

         Democrat Kip Holden and Republican Billy Nungesser have been running quieter campaigns for lieutenant governor, trying to build off grassroots support and name recognition to win votes in the Saturday runoff election.

         Besides being second in line to the governor, the lieutenant governor is Louisiana's chief tourism ambassador, overseeing state parks, museums and tourism promotion efforts in the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Tourism is an $11 billion state industry.

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         With both contenders promising to be champions of the industry, the race has become more about personalities than policy points. Holden and Nungesser agreed to skip attack ads in the runoff, trying to strike differences by emphasizing backgrounds and government resumes.

         Holden, the Baton Rouge mayor, is a former city council member and state lawmaker. Nungesser is the former president of Plaquemines Parish.

         "My style and philosophy, it is to go out aggressively and tell people what we have here," Holden said. "When you look at Baton Rouge, all we've done is promote, promote, promote. That has brought in a lot of great activities."

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         Nungesser highlights his anti-abortion, pro-gun stances, his background as a businessman and his leadership of Plaquemines Parish after the BP oil spill. He describes seeking that office after Hurricane Katrina because he didn't see enough leadership.

         "By nature, I am a good salesman. I'm a hard worker," Nungesser said. "You will not be disappointed with my honesty, my effort, and my love and passion for this state."

         The lieutenant governor's seat is open because Republican Jay Dardenne ran unsuccessfully for governor. Democrat John Bel Edwards and Republican David Vitter are in the high-spending, tight runoff competition to follow term-limited Gov. Bobby Jindal into office.

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         Nungesser has far outspent Holden in the race. The Republican's campaign had pumped $2.6 million into its efforts by early November, according to the most recent campaign finance reports available.

         But much of Nungesser's spending came ahead of the Oct. 24 primary, when he was in an attack-heavy ad battle with Jefferson Parish President John Young, who came in third in the four-person primary field. Nungesser edged Young out of the runoff by less than 11,500 votes.

         By comparison, Holden as the lone Democrat spent very little in the primary, easily making the runoff with his base of party support. His campaign has done far less TV advertising, with only $162,000 spent on the race through the start of November.

         To get out the vote in the final days ahead of the runoff, Holden said he was beefing up his media presence and reaching out to local mayors to stress the importance of the election.

         "There will be very little sleep," he said.

         Nungesser spent this week campaigning around Louisiana with country music star Sammy Kershaw, a Republican who once sought the lieutenant governor's job himself. Nungesser has also been trying to tie the race to veterans, saying Louisiana residents should "honor a veteran by voting."

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte




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