Louisiana candidate sign-up period for Oct. 24 election wraps up with few surprises

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — No unexpected twists stirred up things at the top of the ballot, as the candidate sign-up period for Louisiana's Oct. 24 election ended Thursday.

Louisiana has wide open races for governor and lieutenant governor.

Nine candidates registered to run for governor by the close of the three-day qualifying period. But the competition is among four well-financed contenders: Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, all Republicans; and state Rep. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat.

Until the final minutes, questions lingered about whether John Georges, owner of The Advocate newspapers and an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2007, would jump into this year's race. A representative for Georges sat in his sport utility vehicle in the Secretary of State's Office parking lot for a half hour, fueling the speculation, before driving away without ever going inside the building.

Republican Bobby Jindal is term-limited as governor, creating the first vacancy for the position in eight years.

Across the state, nearly 2,100 candidates registered for the 1,150 elections for state and local offices, according to data from the secretary of state. Candidates for local races signed up with their parish clerks of court.

Schedler described it as "one of the quietest qualifyings we've had." He said he was stunned that 494 candidates around Louisiana were elected automatically when no one registered to run against them.

"That's kind of an astounding figure of 43 percent going in unopposed. It just seems high," Schedler said. "We're getting more and more concerned about voter apathy and voter turnout, and that fuels that argument to some degree."

With Dardenne seeking to move into the governor's mansion, that also creates a heated competition for the state's No. 2 job. Four contenders have signed up for that race: Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, a Democrat; and state Sen. Elbert Guillory of Opelousas, former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, and Jefferson Parish President John Young, all Republicans.

Louisiana's five other GOP statewide incumbents are running for re-election: Schedler, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and Treasurer John Kennedy.

Each has attracted challengers, though few are well-funded competitors.

As he signed up for the insurance commissioner's race Thursday, Donald Hodge Jr. said he was self-financing his second try for the job. A Democrat, Hodge said he would concentrate on online advertising as he criticizes Donelon for Louisiana's high insurance rates and for taking campaign contributions from the insurance industry.

"I think online is the medium of the future," Hodge said.

In the attorney general's race, Caldwell has drawn strong opposition from GOP former Congressman Jeff Landry, who has received the endorsement of the state Republican Party.

Also in that race are Port Allen lawyer Marty Maley, a Republican, and Democrats Geri Broussard Baloney of Garyville and Ike Jackson of Plaquemine.

One of the biggest surprises during the three-day sign-up period came Wednesday when the president of Louisiana's top school board announced he wasn't running for a third term. Chas Roemer said he wasn't seeking to return to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education so he could devote more time to his children and his investment management business.

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