by David Jacobs
Early voting in Louisiana began Saturday for an election in which two open seats in Congress, another in the Louisiana Legislature and a spot on the state school board are at stake.
Democrat Cedric Richmond was reelected to represent Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, the state’s only majority-minority district which includes New Orleans and extends into Baton Rouge. Richmond stepped down from Congress, however, shortly after last fall’s election to join President Joe Biden’s administration.
Fifteen candidates are vying to fill what is generally considered a safe seat for the Democrats. A pair of Democratic state senators – Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson – are the most high-profile candidates. The state Republican Party is backing Claston Bernard.
Louisiana does not hold party primaries. In the first round of an election, every candidate competes on the same ballot regardless of party affiliation. If one candidate gets more than half of the votes, the candidate wins outright. If not, the top two finishers advance to a runoff.
Letlow’s widow, university administrator Julia Letlow, now is running for the seat. Although nine of the 12 candidates are Republicans, the GOP establishment has endorsed Letlow.
Republican state Rep. Lance Harris, who made the runoff against Luke Letlow, decided not to try again. Democrat Sandra Christophe, who came a few hundred votes short of making the runoff last time, is running again.
The largely rural 5th District includes much of northeast and central Louisiana.
Five candidates are running to replace Tony Davis to represent northwest Louisiana’s District 4 on the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. They include former state lawmaker John Milkovich, who was a vociferous opponent of Common Core education standards, and Shelly McFarland, vice president of McFarland Timber and wife of state Rep. Jack McFarland.
Three candidates are seeking to replace Republican Charles Henry, who stepped down after only a year in office. They are Metairie Republicans Eddie Connick and Laurie Schlegel and River Ridge Democrat Raymond Delany Jr.
The first round of the election culminates March 20, with runoffs on April 24, if necessary.
Residents of 20 parishes will vote in multi-parish and local elections, while 23 parishes have only multi-parish elections, according to the secretary of state’s office. Ten parishes hold only local races, and 11 have no elections.
Early voting begins Saturday and continues through March 13 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, excluding Sunday. Citizens who want to vote early may do so in person at the parish registrar of voters office or at other designated locations.
More information is available at voterportal.sos.la.gov and on the GeauxVote mobile app.
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David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.
Photo “Karen Carter Petersen” by Karen Carter Petersen, “Troy Carter” is by Troy Carter, and “Claston Bernard” is by Claston Bernard.