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Lopsided Vote for Louisiana Governor Seen : Election: Black Democratic candidate is making history but has almost no chance of beating his white opponent, analysts say.

<i> from Associated Press</i>

For the first time, an African American will be on the runoff ballot for Louisiana governor, but political analysts say he has almost no chance of beating his conservative white opponent on Saturday.

Cleo Fields, a black Democratic congressman, has maintained that voters will go beyond race to choose a successor to Gov. Edwin W. Edwards.

Mike Foster, a state senator who switched to the Republican Party in September, predicted he would win even if Fields were white. Foster says Fields has a liberal voting record that is out of step with the voters’ mood.

In a campaign with two relatively unknown, somber candidates, political analysts are expecting the vote to break along racial lines, as occurred in the primary and in pre-election polls.

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One-third of Louisiana’s population is black, and about 26% of its 2.3 million registered voters are black.

“The experts said I couldn’t get elected to the state Senate and when I did, they said I could never be elected to Congress,” Fields said. “If I paid attention to the polls I would never have run for anything.”

Both candidates have mostly avoided talking about race in the campaign to succeed retiring Edwards, who has not endorsed either of them.

The latest poll, taken Monday and Tuesday for several newspapers and broadcasters, showed Foster leading with 56% to 36% for Fields and 8% undecided. The results have a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

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A hastily arranged appearance for Fields in New Orleans by Vice President Al Gore drew a crowd of only 150 or so Thursday night.

Foster emerged as the leader from the 16-candidate primary with 26% of the 1.4 million votes cast. Fields ran second with 19%--mostly among blacks, according to voter surveys. In Louisiana, candidates of both parties run in the same open primary.

Gubernatorial races in the state often feature colorful, humorous candidates. This time, voters got two men who shun showmanship in favor of forums where they agree on the state’s education and Medicaid needs.

Ed Renwick of the Loyola University Institute of Politics in New Orleans says his recent polling shows 80% of voters know little about either candidate.

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“A lot of people are going to watch the election returns and whichever one wins they’re going to turn to whoever they’re sitting with and say, ‘I wonder who he is?’ This is amazing,” Renwick said.


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