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Low Voter Turnout Expected in Louisiana Runoff

November 21, 1987

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ With the governor’s race already settled by a startling concession, elections officials predict a low voter turnout for Saturday’s runoff to choose officials for three state offices.

After Gov. Edwin Edwards decided not to challenge U.S. Rep. Buddy Roemer in a runoff following the Oct. 24 primary, voter interest dropped sharply, said Darrell Cobb, state elections director.

Cobb predicted Friday that only 41 percent to 44 percent of the eligible voters would cast ballots Saturday, compared with 71 percent in the first primary.

Voters will decide statewide races for lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state, as well as the fate of five proposed constitutional amendments.

Lt. Gov. Bobby Freeman, a Democrat seeking a third term, faced former Secretary of State Paul Hardy after a campaign during which both portrayed themselves as the candidate who can work best with Roemer.

Hardy, who recently switched to the Republican Party, was an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1979.

Under the Louisiana Constitution, the lieutenant governor has no official duties.

Attorney General William Guste, seeking a fifth term, faced Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick. Both are Democrats.

The two engaged in an acrimonious campaign in which the challenger said Guste had mishandled a lawsuit against Texaco Inc. over $387 million in alleged underpayments of natural gas royalties.

State Rep. Fox McKeithen, the son of former Gov. John McKeithen, and Mike Cutshaw, a Baton Rouge lawyer, face off in the secretary of state’s race. The two Democrats campaigned largely on Roemer’s theme of changing state government.

The secretary of state’s job came open when incumbent Jim Brown ran for governor.

At the top of the proposed constitutional changes is a provision calling for a 40-year plan to retire a $5 billion debt accumulated by 13 public retirement systems.

Proponents say the amendment is needed to avoid default by the retirement systems. Under current constitutional provisions, pension benefits must be paid from general operating funds if the systems are unable to meet their obligations.

A controversial off-track betting issue is on the ballot in five New Orleans-area parishes. It would allow patrons to go to OTB parlors to watch races on television and place bets - without going to thoroughbred tracks.

Supporters say it would generate revenues for the state; critics say it would encourage gambling.

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