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Dead-Heat Louisiana Senate Race Enters Final Hours

On Saturday, Louisiana voters will choose between Democratic incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu and her opponent, Republican Elections Commissioner Suzanne Terrell.

Landrieu said Thursday that Terrell has not done enough to protect the state’s sugar cane industry from foreign competition and hadn’t broached the issue with President Bush.

Terrell countered that she had talked with the president and with Vice President Cheney about the issue and that she would be “in a better position than Landrieu to influence policy with the Republican administration and Senate leadership,” the Associated Press reported Friday.

The latest debate is illustrative of the entire campaign. Terrell has said that Louisianans need a senator who will support the president. Landrieu has countered that she will back Mr. Bush on most issues, but will oppose him if she feels his actions will hurt Louisiana interests. She has criticized Terrell for being too much of a “rubber stamp” for the president’s policies.

Campaign officials for both candidates have been busy this week rounding up extra help and urging core supporters to head to the polls on Saturday.

Landrieu’s camp is relying on recorded phone messages from popular national politicians and personal visits from members of the Congressional Black Caucus to energize supporters, the New Orleans Times Picayune reported. Turnout, especially among African-Americans, is seen as one of the keys to a Landrieu victory.

“If people vote, Mary wins — and if people don’t vote or vote in lower numbers, Mary doesn’t win. It’s just that simple,” U.S. Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) told the Baton Rouge Advocate.

As both candidates have sought to associate themselves with President Bush, it has been Terrell who has played host to a stream of Republican officials including the president, Vice President Dick Cheney, and former President Bush. Terrell has also recruited a vast army of volunteers, including out-of-state college and Christian home-schooled students, to help turn out Republican votes, the Times Picayune reported.

The two candidates were forced into a runoff election after neither captured more than 50 percent of the vote in a wide open field of nine contenders made possible by Louisiana’s unique “open primary” election law.

The law stipulates that members of all parties must run in the general election and that if no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote, the two top vote-getters compete in a runoff. Landrieu earned 46 percent of the vote while Terrell grabbed second place with 27 percent.

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