In La. gov’s race the LSU-Auburn game could be the big challenger

Published 4:11 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2007

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — What’s a candidate to do?

Polls show U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal doing well against his opponents in the Louisiana governor’s race. But the front-runner also has to worry about 92,000 people planning to attend the LSU-Auburn game, the hunters eager for the opening of deer season, the revelers heading for the Gumbo Festival in Chackbay or the Andouille Festival in LaPlace.

All of those distractions take place on Saturday, Oct. 20., which also happens to be election day in Louisiana.

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That’s why Jindal cast his ballot Tuesday — 11 days early. It’s also why he planned a statewide ‘‘meet-and-greet’’ trip to encourage voters in every parish to take advantage of Louisiana’s early voting provision.

He remembers all too well his loss to Gov. Kathleen Blanco in the last governor’s race, when Louisiana played Alabama in Alabama.

‘‘I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and said, ‘I was going to vote for you but I went to the game,’’’ Jindal said Tuesday. ‘‘This year we want to make sure they vote even if they’re going to the game, or hunting or anywhere else.’’

Jindal faces three major opponents — state Sen. Walter Boasso, D-Arabi, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, D-Elm Grove, and John Georges, a New Orleans businessman running without a party affiliation.

Although the polls give Jindal the lead, voter turnout will be important, said Wayne Parent, Chairman of the LSU Political Science Department, Manship School of Mass Communications.

Under Louisiana’s open primary law, all candidates run at one time. If no one captures a majority of the vote there’s a runoff between the top two candidates.

‘‘The polls are suggesting he could win without a runoff if the turnout is good,’’ Parent said. ‘‘That’s why it’s important for all the candidates to get their vote out.’’

There are nine college football games in Louisiana on election day including an emotional Alcorn State-Southern University game that is expected to draw over 18,000 fans.

Deer season opens in three of the state’s eight deer hunting zones, giving the 160,000 licensed deer hunters a first crack on election day. Squirrel season will already be open, drawing additional hunters to the woods.

More than 30 events, including blues, zydeco and rice festivals, a rodeo and an Indian powwow are also scheduled. All adding up to a lot of competition for voters’ time, said Secretary of State Jay Dardenne — the state’s top election officials, who also is on the ballot.

‘‘That’s why we’re emphasizing early voting,’’ Dardenne said.

Early voting at parish courthouses and other designated locations began Saturday. By Tuesday, almost 35,000 ballots had been filed.

‘‘It’s the wave of the future. Voters have all the way through the 13th to vote and they don’t have to worry about fitting it in on the 20th.’’

About 92,400 people are expected to be in Tiger Stadium to watch No. 1 LSU take on No. 22 Auburn on election night. But even if they don’t take advantage of early voting, LSU athletic director Skip Bertman said there still will be plenty of time to vote.

‘‘Tailgaters usually start showing up about 11 o’clock or noon, although some come earlier,’’ Bertman said. ‘‘But kickoff isn’t until 8:05. In other words, there’s plenty of time to vote.’’