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Hanna: Here we go

Candidate qualifying for this fall’s elections is in a few weeks.

As is the case in each election cycle every four years, the governor’s race will top the ballot.  We’ll also entertain a host of other electoral contests, including races for lieutenant governor, state treasurer, secretary of state and attorney general.  A few constitutional amendments will clutter the offering as well.

Voters also will weigh races for legislative seats, sheriff, clerk of court, tax assessor and police jury.  Let’s not forget about the elections for seats on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.  They promise to be lively since the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry will spend significant money to thwart efforts to place control of BESE back in the hands of the teachers unions.

The big enchilada, though, is the governor’s race.

Throughout the year, we’ve operated under the assumption that U.S. Sen. David Vitter, the firebrand Republican from Metairie, eventually would emerge from a small field of Republicans to earn a spot in the November run-off with the lone Democrat in the race.  That would be state Rep. John Bel Edwards, an old Yellow Dog from Amite.

Assuming Edwards is the only significant Democrat to qualify in early September, he will run first in the Oct. 24 primary election. He’ll do it on the strength of the black vote.

SAM HANNALike it or not, the black vote in Louisiana is the Democrat Party’s base of support here.  And since anywhere from 25 percent to 28 percent of the voters on election day will be black, Edwards, on paper, is the man to beat.  For now.

Vitter, meanwhile, is sitting on $9 million to $10 million between his campaign account and the account belonging to the Super PAC that supports his candidacy.  An astonishing figure, to say the least.

It also means Vitter has money to burn, to some degree.

Yet, if we are to believe polling conducted by veteran pollster Verne Kennedy, Vitter is anything but a shoe-in for a shot at meeting Edwards in the November general election.

Kennedy has polled the governor’s race at least twice and soon will be in the field with another poll.  He’s being paid by a group of businessmen in Louisiana, including John Georges, who owns just about anything you can think of including The (Baton Rouge) Advocate and The New Orleans Advocate newspapers.

Kennedy’s most recent poll, released earlier this month, showed Vitter was in a fight for his political life with Scott Angelle, the Republican Public Service Commissioner from Breaux Bridge.  Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, the third announced Republican in the race, was lagging far behind, according to Kennedy.

Edwards, according to Kennedy, was right where he should be — leading the pack once the poll was adjusted to account for the black vote.

With the black vote appropriately distributed, Kennedy’s poll found Edwards with 34 percent of the vote while Vitter and Angelle were locked horns at 21 percent apiece.  Dardenne was at 12 percent.  Some 12 percent was undecided.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone Angelle is a player in this race.  He’s spent close to $1 million on advertising already, but, more importantly, he’s the only candidate in the field who has a geographic base of support — Acadiana.

All of this will change in the coming days, though, when Vitter’s campaign and/or his Super PAC go on TV with some advertising of their own, which, we could presume, might not be exactly friendly toward Angelle.

If Vitter goes negative, that’s a sure sign he has conducted his own poll and he didn’t like what he saw.

Sam Hanna is a state political writer.

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