BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana candidates seeking to rally an election victory were spending their final days before Tuesday attending football tailgates and festivals, waving signs on street corners and making last rounds of phone calls to pitch themselves to voters.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler expected a strong turnout on Election Day, after a record number of voters cast their ballots ahead of time during the weeklong early voting period. More than 340,000 people voted early, nearly 12 percent of Louisiana's 2.9 million registered voters.
"We look at it is an indication of how many people will vote on Election Day," said Meg Casper, a spokeswoman for Schedler.
At the top of the ticket is the contest between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Louisiana's outcome has been expected to be a certain victory for Romney in the Republican-leaning state, so GOP and Democratic volunteers have been asked to travel to swing states to campaign for their candidates there.
In addition to the presidential race, also on the ballot are six congressional races, nine constitutional amendments, judgeships and local contests around the state. A seat on the state's utility regulatory agency, the Public Service Commission, is up for grabs, along with an open Louisiana Supreme Court seat representing the Baton Rouge area.
The outcome of most of the state's U.S. House races seemed to have been decided in August, when few well-financed challengers signed up to oppose Louisiana's incumbent congressmen.
Republican U.S. Reps. Steve Scalise of Metairie, John Fleming of Minden, Rodney Alexander of Quitman and Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge have faced little opposition from their challengers and have had to spend little from their campaign war chests, sticking to town hall meetings and mailers rather than widespread TV advertising.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans also has had little organized opposition, even though Richmond's district has taken on a noticeably different shape, moving all the way up the Mississippi River to Baton Rouge after the latest redesign of the state's congressional districts.
The only Louisiana congressional race to involve big spending and strong competition is in the 3rd District covering southwest Louisiana and Acadiana. No matter the outcome, an incumbent congressman will lose his seat.
Republican incumbents Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry were forced into the same district when the state lost a congressional seat after the latest federal census, and the face-off has been a bitter battle laden with attack ads and accusations of lies and dirty tactics.
The two congressmen are trying to stake out much the same philosophical territory, both running as conservatives, leaving them to distinguish themselves largely by slamming each other. Landry is running as the tea party favorite, while Boustany is considered a more traditional Republican candidate.
Landry calls his opponent an example of what's broken about Washington, claiming Boustany votes with the positions of the national GOP and House Speaker John Boehner over the needs of his district.
"It's a culture of making promises and not delivering," Landry said at a recent debate with Boustany. "I don't do what our leadership in Washington tells me or what the Republican Party tells me."
Boustany charges that his opponent habitually skips votes and attacks Boustany to distract voters from his lack of accomplishments during his one term in Washington. He said Landry plays political games rather than working on legislation.
"He says he wants to do the work. He should at least show up," Boustany said.
The design of the district favors Boustany, but Landry has worked to assemble grassroots support and local GOP endorsements, making the 3rd District race a tight contest.
Three other candidates are seeking the seat, but they've done little fundraising for their campaigns and little advertising. However, Democratic trial lawyer Ron Richard is expected to siphon off Democratic votes and could push the campaign into a Dec. 8 runoff.
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