What if Louisiana held a statewide election and nobody voted?
That's what Republican John Schroder is worried about as early voting for the Nov. 18 runoff election for treasurer began Friday.
His message to supporters as he crisscrossed the state Thursday: "If we don't get out and work we'll be embarrassed," Schroder said as he rallied Republican Women club members in LaSalle Parish, Monroe and central Louisiana.
Conventional wisdom says the race should be a slam dunk for the Republican in a deeply red state against New Orleans attorney Derrick Edwards, who has raised little money and never held political office.
The problem for Shroder: Voter turnout could be in single digits everywhere except New Orleans, where a mayor's race will elevate turnout there in one of the few Democratic strongholds in Louisiana.
"It's far from a slam dunk," Schroder said. "We have to get the vote our or we're going to lose. Turnout is going to be even worse than the primary (a dismal 14 percent).
"If there's a 6 to 8 percent turnout I have to win 40 parishes just to equal Orleans Parish," he said.
Edwards, who didn't even get the state party's full support until after the primary despite being the only Democrat in the race, senses his opportunity.
In an Associated Press story, Edwards describes himself as more qualified to hold the treasurer's job and doesn't have a political agenda. He and his supporters said Schroder is spreading false information by suggesting the treasurer could somehow work to cut government spending levels.
"Either he is intentionally trying to mislead the people of this great state or he has no idea what the state treasurer job does," Edwards told Democrats at last weekend's meeting where the party's leaders endorsed him.
The treasurer serves as Louisiana's chief money manager and investment officer. The special election will fill the remaining two years of the current term after Republican John Kennedy was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Former state lawmaker Kay Katz, who was also a National Republican Committee Woman, said she is disappointed by voter apathy.
"We have an important statewide election and can't get more people than this to vote?" she said. "I'm deeply disappointed in the level of engagement from voters."
Twenty-four of Louisiana's 64 parishes only have the treasurer's race on the ballot.
The early voting schedule shifted slightly because of the Veteran's Day holiday on Nov. 10.
Voters can cast ballots from Friday through Nov. 11, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except on Sunday and Veteran's Day. Early voting is held at local parish registrar of voters' offices and other designated locations.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1
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