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Analysis: Ballot for Louisiana's November election set this week with candidate sign-up period

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Think you're tired of campaign ads now? Get ready for the onslaught.

Louisiana's election season is about to intensify, as the official slate of candidates in the Nov. 4 races is set during the sign-up period that runs from Wednesday through Friday.

After months of combing through polling data, working the fundraising circuit and testing campaign speeches, potential candidates have to settle on whether they're in or out of the political field. Contenders vying for any office from constable to a seat in Congress have to put up qualifying fees and sign paperwork this week to get their name on the ballot.

In Louisiana, the close of the three-day qualifying period tends to ratchet up the campaigning.

It signifies the assault of near-constant TV and radio advertising, a blitz of robo-calls and the appearance of campaign placards on most major thoroughfares. It's also traditionally when the state's voters start paying more attention to the elections and who's on the ballot.

For candidates, the end of the sign-up period gives them a clear list of opponents and only about 10 weeks left to make their pitches to voters.

At the top of the ballot will be the congressional races, with the most attention garnered by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's bid to hold onto her seat for a fourth term, despite the dwindling nature of Democrats in Louisiana's top elected jobs.

Landrieu's got two Republican challengers trying to end her political career: U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, a former state senator with the backing of the GOP establishment; and tea party favorite Rob Maness, a political newcomer and retired Air Force colonel.

The incumbent senator has a list of accomplishments she can tout from her 18 years in office, but she's also got that vote for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul to contend with in a state where both Obama and the health law are extremely unpopular.

Cassidy's attempt to oust Landrieu leaves his Baton Rouge-based 6th District congressional seat open, and a crowded field of contenders are vying for the job.

The man grabbing the most attention is 87-year-old former Gov. Edwin Edwards, the Democrat who shaped Louisiana politics for decades until he went to federal prison for corruption.

Edwards isn't necessarily well-positioned to win a seat representing what is considered to be among the most conservative districts in the country, but he's got the name recognition and support to easily capture a spot in the runoff election.

At least eight Republicans are jockeying to be in that December runoff against him, including two state lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's former coastal chief.

Meanwhile, in the 5th District that covers northeast and central Louisiana, Republican incumbent Vance McAllister is fighting to repeat his improbable special election victory of last year. A cheating scandal has threatened his re-election plans.

The married congressman refused to leave office after he was seen kissing a female aide on a leaked security video, despite calls from GOP leadership to exit the position. Now, he's traveling the district, asking voters to move past the scandal and send him back to Washington.

Six candidates have announced they are challenging McAllister, including a family member to the men of the cable television hit "Duck Dynasty."

Incumbents in the state's four other U.S. House districts appear largely safe, with no well-funded or well-known opponents expected to challenge them — unless a last-minute entrant spoils their re-election ease.

Further down the ballot are dozens of judgeships around the state, two seats on the state's utility regulatory agency and 43 district attorney positions. Voters in Shreveport will choose a new mayor. Across the state, people will select school board members, police chiefs, city councilmen and other local officials.

The runoff election, for any race where a candidate doesn't get more than 50 percent of the vote, is set for Dec. 6.

Also on November's ballot but often overlooked by voters will be 14 proposals to rewrite Louisiana's state constitution.

With kids back in school, it's time for grown-ups to start doing their homework, on the lengthy list of candidates and issues they'll face in the voting booth.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Melinda Deslatte covers Louisiana politics for The Associated Press.

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