- Associated Press - Monday, November 7, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Contenders for Louisiana’s open U.S. Senate seat crisscrossed the state in the final hours ahead of Election Day, shaking hands, rallying supporters and making the last push for voter support in a race too tight to forecast.

The state is all but certain to choose Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential race Tuesday, with the winner capturing eight electoral votes.

But the competition for Louisiana’s Senate seat remained far from decided, with five candidates - out of two dozen - polling within a few percentage points of each other. No one is expected to get more than 50 percent, so the seat won’t be settled until a Dec. 10 runoff.

Polls open at 6 a.m. Tuesday and close at 8 p.m.

In the Senate race, the top tier of contenders includes two Democrats, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and lawyer Caroline Fayard, and three Republicans, U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, U.S. Rep. John Fleming and Treasurer John Kennedy.

White supremacist David Duke also is in the race, but he lags in the polls.

The top five candidates spent part of their weekend in Baton Rouge, tailgating at the sold-out college football game between LSU and Alabama. They spent Monday seeking last-minute support and encouraging voters to show up at the polls despite the threat of rain in parts of Louisiana.

Fleming had the most high-profile event, a Baton Rouge rally with Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican who described Fleming as a conservative with “backbone” who is willing to stand up to members of both parties in Congress.

“Louisiana isn’t some pinko, blue, Northeastern state. There’s a reason I love this state,” Cruz told dozens of people gathered in a seafood restaurant ballroom. “Louisiana deserves to be represented by a conservative, not someone who will just go through the motions.”

Boustany met with voters at popular breakfast and lunch spots in Baton Rouge, walking up to tables to introduce himself and to talk about congressional policy. He described himself as having a “proven track record of getting results” despite gridlock in Washington.

“There are some who embrace partisanship, but I think most people live in between the 40-yard lines, and they really want to see things get done,” Boustany said.

Kennedy, like his opponents, was making the rounds on radio and TV.

“My message is the same it’s always been. Either you like the direction that Washington insiders have taken our country or you don’t. I clearly don’t,” he said. “I think people can do a better job of spending their money than government can.”

Campbell called the leaders of his phone bank operations and get-out-the-vote organizers in the morning and was speaking to a New Orleans civil justice group in the evening, said spokeswoman Mary-Patricia Wray.

His campaign released an automated phone call Tuesday from retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, best known for helping restore order in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In the call, Honore describes Campbell as “an honorable public servant who for many years has fought for working families. He is on the record of serving the people.”

Fayard, who has never held office, hit a high-profile New Orleans restaurant for lunch and visited a senior center, talking of the need to have a “fresh start” for Louisiana in Washington. She also contrasted herself with her opponents, who have all been in elected office for years.

“I think it’s important that people understand who they are choosing between. There’s a contrast between me and every other person in this race,” she said.

Six U.S. House races and six statewide constitutional amendments also are on the ballot. In the U.S. House races, four incumbents are running for re-election and seem on track to easy victories. Two seats are open - in the 3rd and 4th congressional districts - because Boustany and Fleming are running for the Senate.


Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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