NEW ORLEANS – The five leading candidates to become Louisiana's next Lieutenant Governor faced off Monday afternoon.
Eyewitness News Political Analyst and Gambit political columnist Clancy DuBos said current Secretary of State Jay Dardenne is the frontrunner. Polls shows a runoff is a strong possibility.
Three Republicans and two Democrats debated in a forum hosted by the Baton Rouge Press Club, trying to distinguish themselves from the pack.
"My goal in this election is to move us out of mediocrity and into an era of excellence," Democrat candidate Caroline Fayard said in her closing comments.
Fayard is an attorney from Denham Springs who now practices law in New Orleans.
The other leading Democrat in the race is state Sen. Butch Gautreaux of Morgan City. Gautreaux touted his experience and said he will work to fight the negative aftereffects of the oil spill.
"There's been blame cast all over the place, when in fact, there's one entity to blame for the oil spill and that's BP," Senator Gautreaux said. "And although they say they're going to pay for all the damages, I can tell you that that's not been their history and that very much concerns me."
Among the three Republicans at Monday's debate was the leader of the party in Louisiana, candidate Roger Villere, who continued his assault of the federal government.
"Let me say where I stand on a couple of issues," Villere said. "I'm against the Obama-torium. I'm against Obama-care. I'm against Obama-nomics, and I'm definitely against Obama's reelection."
Villere is a small business owner from Metairie who is running as the Tea Party candidate.
"I won these Tea Party endorsements because I am the only candidate in the race who believes in smaller government and less taxes," Villere added.
Fellow Republican Kevin Davis touted his successes in St. Tammany, where in his third term as Parish President, he said, he has created more than 17,000 jobs.
"I don't know that anyone else that's running for this position can actually say that," Davis said. "We developed a plan 10 years ago to increase our employment in St. Tammany Parish and we've been very successful."
Polls show those four candidates all chasing Republican Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, who laid out how he would handle the Lieutenant Governor's duties.
"We need to deliver a collective message that our state is unlike any other state in America," Dardenne said. "We have a story to tell, and it happens to be much better than everybody else's if we have the right person telling that story."
Overall, Monday's forum was cordial. Many of the questions involved the cultural and tourist aspects of the job.
"We need to go after the bespoked traveler that is an individual traveler that will spend a high dollar amount," Fayard said. "The click, click, click kind of traveler who looks on-line for their resources. That's the next wave of tourism."
Fayard called them "eco-tourists".
"When people visit New Orleans for conventions," Dardenne said, "there's no reason why there's not an organized plan to get them out into Cajun Country."
Dardenne wants to better promote Louisiana's ports.
Davis wants to expand the lieutenant governor's responsibilities.
"Certainly, I'd like to expand that office," Davis said. "And that would be to bring the film industry back into the lieutenant governor's position."
The biggest issue for all the candidates could be voter apathy. According to DuBos, turnout could be under 20 percent Saturday.
Polls are open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. statewide. See what's on your ballot with the Secretary of State Office's website