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Louisiana Governor’s Race Goes to GOP : Election: State Sen. Mike Foster handily defeats Democratic congressman who sought to become first black to be voted into the office.

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Republican Mike Foster won the race for Louisiana governor Saturday, easily defeating the man trying to be the first black person elected to the office.

With 99% of the vote reported, Foster had 64%, or 972,882 votes. Democratic Rep. Cleo Fields had 36%, or 554,993.

“With this kind of mandate, I’m going to try to do it--a referendum on whether we will keep gambling, a constitutional amendment to give the voters the right to place issues on the ballot, do the budget better and dedicate funds to higher education,” Foster, a state senator, said in Lafayette after his victory.

Fields said he talked with Foster, commending him on running a good race.

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“We’re going to have a very good relationship as he serves as our governor and I serve as a member of Congress,” he said. He added that at 32, he has time to get to the governor’s office.

Nearly 4% of the state’s 2.3 million registered voters cast their ballots before Saturday, setting a record for absentee voting. The election coincided with the start of deer season and the second zone of duck season.

Political analysts all along said Fields had little chance of succeeding Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, mainly because of his liberal Democratic voting record. Fields is for gun control, affirmative action and government set-aside contracts for minorities, and he opposes the death penalty.

Foster supports legislation to allow citizens to carry concealed weapons and was backed by the National Rifle Assn. He also wants to do away with affirmative action and set-asides, and he defends the death penalty.

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But Edwards, a liberal Democrat, said all the talk about conservatism “may not be good. It is my hope that the governor and incoming Legislature remain mindful of the poor, the disadvantaged, and sick people who need assistance to eke out a living bearing the burdens of poverty, fear and pain.”

Fields speculated that people voted along racial lines, as occurred in the primary and in pre-election polls and was widely predicted in this election by analysts. One third of Louisiana’s population is black, and about 26% of the 2.3 million registered voters are black.

Louisiana last had a black governor during Reconstruction, and he was put into office by the federal government.

Both candidates mostly avoided talking about race in the campaign to succeed the retiring Edwards, who did not endorse either.

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