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The Latest: La. secretary of state race down to 2 candidates

November 7, 2018
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Scott Washington exits a voting booth after casting his ballot at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School in New Orleans, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Latest on Louisiana elections (all times local):

10:37 p.m.

Louisiana’s secretary of state’s race will be a two-person face-off between Republican Kyle Ardoin and Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup in December.

The candidates to be Louisiana’s top elections official were the top vote-getters among nine vying for the job on Tuesday’s ballot. The runoff will be held Dec. 8.

The winner will fill the remaining year of the term of Republican Tom Schedler, who resigned in May after one of his employees sued him for sexual harassment.

Ardoin is Schedler’s top aide who is working in the interim position. Though only in the job a few months, Ardoin ran as the incumbent.

Collins-Greenup reached the runoff in a surprise upset of another candidate favored by the Democratic Party, Renee Fontenot Free. Collins-Greenup, a lawyer from Clinton, raised only about $3,000 for her campaign.

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10:10 p.m.

Once a political upstart and now an incumbent, Republican U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins is heading back to Washington for a second term in Louisiana’s congressional delegation.

Higgins bested six challengers in Tuesday’s open primary election to keep the 3rd District seat representing southwest and south central Louisiana.

The former sheriff’s captain dubbed the “Cajun John Wayne” for his attention-grabbing Crime Stoppers segments surprised the political establishment when he won the House seat in 2016. This time, he had the backing of President Donald Trump and state GOP leaders.

Higgins’ opponents included Republican Josh Guillory, a Lafayette attorney and Iraq war veteran and Democrat Mimi Methvin, a former federal magistrate judge from Lafayette.

The 3rd District covers all or part of 10 parishes, including Lake Charles and most of Acadiana.

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9:55 p.m.

Louisiana voters want to end raids on the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, to keep dollars solely available for road, bridge, port and airport work.

Louisiana’s constitution allowed the trust fund containing state gasoline and fuel tax income to be spent on transportation projects and Louisiana State Police traffic control operations.

Under a constitutional amendment approved in Tuesday’s election, state police will be removed from the list.

Governors have used the money to fill gaps in the state police budget, with an estimated $700 million diverted to state police operations since 1991.

Gov. John Bel Edwards ended the practice, but lawmakers who sent Amendment 4 to the voters didn’t want future governors and legislatures to have the option.

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Large property tax hikes in Louisiana will be slowed down, to give homeowners time to adjust.

Voters in Tuesday’s election supported a constitutional change that requires a four-year phase-in of higher property taxes when a tax assessor’s reappraisal boosts a home’s value by more than 50 percent.

The change only applies to property that qualifies for a state homestead exemption.

State lawmakers approved the proposal earlier this year.

Supporters of Amendment 6 said homeowners should be given time to adjust to sizable tax hikes caused by sharp upticks in home values for a neighborhood. Opponents said easing in such property tax increases will deprive local government of money they are owed, create headaches for tax collectors and continue inequities among homeowners.

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Louisiana voters have decided that local government agencies should be able to share equipment and staff.

Constitutional Amendment 3 allowing the donations won passage in Tuesday’s election.

The provision addresses a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling that allowed government agencies to make such sharing agreements, but only for something equivalent in exchange.

The constitutional change will authorize donations of public equipment or personnel between agencies for a specific activity or function if they have a written agreement. Nothing of comparable value will have to be exchanged.

State lawmakers approved the proposal earlier this year, placing it on the ballot.

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9:50 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, the House’s third-ranking Republican, has beaten five opponents to win re-election to his 1st District seat representing southeast Louisiana.

Tuesday’s victory in the open primary was Scalise’s first election since he survived life-threatening injuries from a shooting at a 2017 congressional baseball practice.

Scalise, from Jefferson Parish, was first elected to Congress in 2008. He’ll be entering his sixth term, where he’s expected to advance in GOP leadership if Republicans control the House.

The congressman was confident in his re-election to represent the conservative district that covers part of New Orleans and much of the suburban New Orleans region. He spent most of the election cycle campaigning for GOP contenders elsewhere.

Among Scalise’s opponents were Democrats Tammy Savoie of New Orleans and Jim Francis of Covington.

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9:47 p.m.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson has defeated two opponents to retain his seat representing Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District for a second term.

Johnson, a former state lawmaker from Benton, easily won Tuesday’s open primary election to hang onto the northwest Louisiana-based seat.

He faced little competition from his opponents: Mark David Halverson, of Bossier City, who ran without party affiliation, and Ryan Trundle, a Democrat from Shreveport. Trundle couldn’t compete on the fundraising circuit, and Halverson didn’t report any money raised at all.

The 4th District is largely rural, stretching from the Arkansas line into southwest Louisiana, including the Shreveport area.

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9:28 p.m.

Despite multiple opponents, Republican U.S. Rep. Garret Graves won a third term representing Louisiana’s 6th District in Congress without a runoff election.

Graves defeated three other candidates in Tuesday’s open primary. The former congressional aide and former state coastal chief from Baton Rouge first won the seat in 2014.

Among Graves’ opponents was Justin DeWitt, a Baton Rouge Democrat who described himself as the first openly gay candidate to run for a Louisiana congressional seat.

Also on the ballot were Devin Lance Graham, an independent from Gonzales, and Andie Saizan, a Democrat from Springfield. Only DeWitt and Saizan reported fundraising, but Graves’ multimillion-dollar campaign account dwarfed his competitors’ donations.

The 6th District includes all or part of 13 parishes, around Baton Rouge and stretching southeast into Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

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9:22 p.m.

Louisiana’s property tax rules will be changing.

The state exempts the first $75,000 value of a home from property taxes. Under current laws, tax assessments are frozen for the elderly, disabled veterans and others. In addition, the state gives higher property tax breaks to homeowners who are surviving spouses of people in the military, state police, local law enforcement and firefighters who die in the line of duty.

Voters in Tuesday’s election backed a constitutional change, listed as Amendment 5, that will extend the existing special property tax treatments to homes that are placed into a trust.

State lawmakers approved the proposal earlier this year, placing it on the ballot.

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9:12 p.m.

Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham has cruised to a third term as congressman for Louisiana’s 5th District.

Though he had three opponents, Abraham easily won re-election in Tuesday’s open primary for the seat representing northeast and central Louisiana.

Next, he’ll face questions about whether he intends to challenge Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in the 2019 election. Abraham, a doctor from rural Richland Parish, has said he’s eyeing the race.

In his re-election bid, Abraham defeated Billy Burkette, an independent from East Feliciana Parish; Jessee Fleenor, a Democrat from Tangipahoa Parish; and Kyle Randol, a Libertarian from Monroe. Only Fleenor reported campaign fundraising.

The largely rural 5th District contains all or part of 24 parishes, including parishes that run along the Mississippi state line.

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9:12 p.m.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond will return to Washington for a fifth term representing Louisiana’s 2nd District in Congress.

Richmond, chairman of the influential Congressional Black Caucus, defeated three opponents without party affiliation in Tuesday’s open primary election.

The lawmaker from New Orleans is the only Democrat and only African-American currently in Louisiana’s congressional delegation. The majority-minority district he represents includes most of New Orleans, running up the Mississippi River into part of Baton Rouge.

Richmond, a former state legislator elected to Congress in 2010, was deemed so safe the Republican Party didn’t field a candidate against him. His opponents did little to no fundraising for their campaigns.

The three competitors were Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste of New Orleans, Shawndra Rodriguez of Baton Rouge, and Jesse Schmidt of Gretna.

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9:05 p.m.

Convicted felons in Louisiana will have to wait five years after serving their sentences before they can run for office in the state.

Voters in Tuesday’s election agreed to Amendment 1 enacting the new prohibition in Louisiana’s constitution.

Louisiana had an amendment barring felons from seeking office for 15 years after serving their sentences. The state Supreme Court overturned the provision in 2016, saying voters approved a version differing from the one that lawmakers passed.

Lawmakers debated re-enacting the ban for several years without reaching an agreement. The five-year provision was a compromise that won final passage from the state House and Senate earlier this year, placing it on the ballot.

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8 p.m.

Polls have closed in Louisiana’s election.

Top of the ballot is a special election for secretary of state, to fill the remaining year of the term of Republican Tom Schedler, who resigned in May amid a sexual harassment scandal.

Nine candidates are competing, including Schedler’s top aide Republican Kyle Ardoin, who has been working as interim secretary of state.

Other Republicans vying for the job include Turkey Creek Mayor Heather Cloud, former Sen. A.G. Crowe, Rep. Rick Edmonds and Rep. Julie Stokes. Democrats include Renee Fontenot Free, a former first assistant to two secretaries of state, and lawyer Gwen Collins-Greenup.

The race is expected to head into a Dec. 8 runoff.

Louisiana’s U.S. House seats also are up for grabs, with all six incumbent congressmen seeking re-election.

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6:30 p.m.

The chief elections official in Orleans Parish says turnout has been good and voting operations have been going smoothly.

Arthur Morrell says he hopes “something has shaken the voters and made them realize how important it is to vote.”

However, Morrell says his office has encountered one problem. A new charter operator took over a school on Esplanade Avenue that has been a longtime polling place. The new school management decided not to allow voters to use a school yard behind the building to park.

That’s made it especially difficult for handicapped voters. He says he’s working to get the situation resolved.

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1:05 p.m.

Lots of voters in Louisiana did not get the “I Voted” stickers on Election Day.

The Advocate reports the secretary of state’s office said in a Twitter message that “budgetary constraints” prevented the office from providing the stickers for Tuesday’s voting.

Louisiana’s 2016 “I Voted” stickers were an internet sensation, as they featured a George Rodrique blue dog and started selling on sites like eBay.

Some votes in Lafayette did receive the more traditional “I Voted” stickers, but many early voters did not.

After complaints showed up on social media, the secretary of state’s office said local clerks of court were responsible for providing them. But the Baton Rouge clerk of court’s office said the secretary of state’s office was supposed to provide them.

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11:35 a.m.

No significant problems have been reported as voters cast their ballots in Louisiana.

The secretary of state’s office reported only one polling location was affected because of the severe weather that moved across the state. The report says power was only out for about 15 minutes and the voting machines were not affected because of battery backups.

Polls did not open as scheduled at 6 a.m. Tuesday at a middle school in the town of Iowa in Calcasieu Parish. Clerk of Court Lynn Jones says there was a miscommunication about getting the doors unlocked at J.I. Watson Middle School.

Voters are taking part in a special election for secretary of state. There is also a proposed constitutional amendment to require a unanimous jury for all felony convictions.

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12:45 a.m.

Louisiana has one statewide position on the ballot - a special election to fill a secretary of state seat vacated because of a sexual harassment scandal.

Beyond filling that elections chief job, Louisiana voters Tuesday are deciding whether to return six U.S. House incumbents to Washington for another term and whether to rewrite six provisions in the state constitution.

Among the constitutional amendments are proposals that would require unanimous jury verdicts for all felony convictions in Louisiana and would make convicted felons in Louisiana wait five years after serving their sentences before they can run for office.

The packed primary competition for secretary of state and for Louisiana’s other seats has lacked the attention-grabbing nature of state races around the country.

Runoff elections, as needed, will be Dec. 8.

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