BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — While voters around the country eagerly await Tuesday as the end of the campaign ad season, Louisiana's residents need to brace for another month of the onslaught of negative TV ads and mailboxes spilling over with attack flyers.
The quirk of the state's election calendar for congressional races means the barrage of ill will from campaigns and outside groups is expected to continue through the Thanksgiving holidays and most of the college football regular season.
High-profile U.S. Senate and U.S. House races seem all but certain to be decided Dec. 6, because the slate of candidates is long. If no candidate in a field gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the race heads to a runoff between the top two vote-getters.
That means Louisiana will be one of the last, if not the last, state in the country to decide some of its congressional seats — well past the Election Day everyone else around the nation expects to decide their lineups in Congress.
Top of the ballot is the tight race for the U.S. Senate seat. Seeking a fourth term, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu faces one of her toughest re-election efforts, challenged by two main Republican opponents: U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy and retired Air Force colonel Rob Maness, a tea party favorite.
The race already has been marked with mudslinging. Expect more on the way, if it becomes a head-to-head competition between Landrieu and Cassidy, as predicted by the polling.
Candidates, political parties and outside groups have run more 69,000 TV ads so far, shelling out at least $27 million for air time, according to the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, which is tracking ad spending across the country. Spending on TV ads in Louisiana's Senate race ranks seventh in the nation, according to the tally.
Major political groups certainly are anticipating a Dec. 6 showdown for the Senate seat.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has asked broadcast stations and cable providers to set aside $2.8 million in air time for the race, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has booked $1.8 million in air time past Tuesday.
That's not counting the outside organizations readying for the possible last-stand state in determining control of the U.S. Senate.
Landrieu is a target for national Republicans driving to gain six seats they need to capture the Senate majority. She is the only Democratic statewide elected official in Louisiana, a state that strongly supported Mitt Romney in 2012.
Meanwhile, races for two of Louisiana's six U.S. House seats also appear headed to runoffs, in the northeast Louisiana-based 5th District and the Baton Rouge-based 6th District.
In the 5th District, Republican incumbent Vance McAllister is trying to scrape into the runoff election as a cheating scandal threatens to end his short tenure in Congress. He's been in office less than a year.
McAllister initially said he wouldn't run for re-election after he was caught on a leaked security video kissing a woman who was not his wife. But despite calls from Louisiana's Republican leaders to resign, McAllister changed his mind and entered the race.
Eight challengers sensed weakness and added their names to the ballot, including Republican Zach Dasher, a political newcomer related to the bearded men of TV's "Duck Dynasty," GOP doctor Ralph Abraham and Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, the only Democrat seeking the seat.
In the neighboring 6th District, 87-year-old former Gov. Edwin Edwards is trying to make his political comeback and overcome the tarnish of a federal corruption conviction.
The Democrat is considered likely for the runoff spot but a long-shot for an election win. His Republican challengers include state Sen. Dan Claitor, software company owner Paul Dietzel, former state coastal chief Garret Graves and state Rep. Lenar Whitney.
The crowded fields all but ensure those two U.S. House competitions will join the Senate race on the December ballot, along with a host of local elections that won't be decided until well after the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers have gone stale.
On the plus side, at least voters won't have to look at another list of confusing constitutional amendments past Tuesday's Election Day.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Melinda Deslatte covers Louisiana politics for The Associated Press.
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