- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The race for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District seat has been almost invisible, with few campaign events, little public attention and no television advertising from either of the major candidates ahead of next week’s election.

Confident of his own re-election win, Democratic incumbent Cedric Richmond spent the weekend in Ohio and North Carolina supporting his party’s presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Richmond’s main opponent, Baton Rouge mayor Kip Holden, has high name recognition, but he’s done surprisingly little to promote his candidacy. Also a Democrat, Holden has reported little fundraising, and his website from last year’s unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor hasn’t been updated to reflect his congressional bid.

The men faced off Monday before the Press Club of Baton Rouge in one of the race’s only forums ahead of the Nov. 8 election. The 2nd District contains most of New Orleans and runs up the Mississippi River into parts of Baton Rouge.

Two other candidates who have done no fundraising also are in the race.

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CAMPAIGN PITCHES

Holden promoted his three terms as Baton Rouge’s mayor, touting the city’s downtown redevelopment and economic development wins. People are “seeing businesses with worldwide reputations coming to Baton Rouge,” he said.

Richmond, in his third term in Congress, said he’s had a close relationship with President Barack Obama that has helped win federal transportation money for Louisiana and bolstered flood recovery efforts.

Despite the low-key appearance of the race, both men say they are campaigning and running radio ads. Richmond said he’s doing direct mailers and automated calls to households. Holden said he spent the weekend speaking at churches and visiting with community leaders.

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HEALTH CARE

While both support the federal health overhaul, they also said the law needs changes.

Richmond wants to allow people to buy insurance policies across state lines, to increase competition. He said adjustments must be made to encourage younger people to buy insurance coverage rather than pay the penalty for being uninsured.

Holden said more outreach and education is needed to explain the costs and how to access the different types of insurance options. He said he had concerns about the price tag of insurance, but didn’t offer specific ideas for driving down costs.

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TRADE AND CLIMATE CHANGE

The candidates diverged on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact the Obama administration negotiated with 11 Pacific countries. Holden supported the trade deal, which awaits congressional approval, saying it would bolster Louisiana’s ports. Richmond said he’s concerned the trade deal would cost the country too many jobs and should be renegotiated.

“If I had to vote on it today, I would not vote for it,” Richmond said.

Climate change sparked no disagreements, with both men saying they believed in man-made global warming and backing efforts to expand alternative energy sources.

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GUN RIGHTS

Richmond and Holden supported more restrictions on gun purchases in the United States, though Holden appeared to go further.

Holden said he wants more gun safety requirements on people who keep weapons at home and suggested he’d consider limiting the types of ammunition that can be sold.

“The number of rounds that can be fired by a weapon seems pretty frightening,” he said.

Richmond described himself as a gun owner and gun rights supporter, but said Congress “can institute reasonable restrictions.” He said he wants to end the ability for people to get guns if their federal background checks aren’t completed in three days and to prevent suspected terrorists on the FBI’s no-fly list from being able to buy weapons.

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TRADED JABS, OTHER RACES

Richmond suggested Holden was largely absent in a fiery Baton Rouge summer, amid protests that followed the fatal shooting of black man Alton Sterling by white police officers, followed by the ambush killing of three law enforcement officers. Holden responded that Richmond has neglected much of the congressional district, particularly the Baton Rouge area.

Both men support Clinton’s campaign for president, and neither would say who he’s supporting in Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race, which has multiple Democratic contenders.

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

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