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Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

BATONROUGE,La. -- The political season is upon us as candidates qualify to run in Louisiana's fall elections.

The hotly contested race for U.S. Senate figures to be the main event. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is seeking her fourth term in the the nation's upper chamber. Wednesday, she officially qualified for the election at the Secretary of State's office in Baton Rouge.

Landrieu said leadership is the difference in this race.

'It's about effectiveness,' she said. 'It's about even though the fact that Congress may be a little gridlocked, Senator Landrieu and our Congressional delegation are not. I've helped to lead this delegation in delivering very significant legislation that have helped our state.'

Republican challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., also submitted his paperwork. He said the Louisiana race could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

'Those who think this country has been going in the wrong direction will have a choice,' Cassidy said. 'Obviously Senator Landrieu supports Barack Obama 97 percent of the time. So, for those who disapprove of that, we give the option.'

Tea Party-backed Rob Maness, a Republican, said with events this week in Monroe, Alexandria, Bernice and Shreveport, he will officially qualify for the ballot on Friday morning.

Eyewitness News political analyst Clancy DuBos said this race is very close.

'It has see-sawed back and forth between Landrieu and Cassidy, and Maness I think is surging a little bit,' said DuBos. 'I think it's clear that Landrieu will make the runoff and Cassidy is clearly in the lead, and if Maness wants to move up, he has to take votes away from Cassidy. He really can't take votes off of Landrieu.'

Dr. Silas Lee, a Xavier sociology professor and pollster, said the winning candidate needs to put together a solid coalition of voters.

'People in Washington D.C., they're looking at the fact that Louisiana is a red state,' Lee said. 'However, when you look at voter registration, we're still majority Democrat and yet we have a growing number of independents.'

Lee said even in this age of 'attack ads' and social media, candidates still need a strong ground game.

'In trying to mobilize supporters and making sure they go to the polls in November,' he said.

DuBos said the candidates know what they need to do to win.

''The polls have gone back and forth between Landrieu being close to having a majority and being short of a majority. Her goal is to win this outright in November. Cassidy's goal is to hold off Maness, get as close to Landrieu as he can and possibly pass her up and get into the runoff.'

While the candidates have been running ads on TV for some time now, and qualifying is underway, traditionally Louisiana voters don't really begin to focus on the fall elections until after the Labor Day weekend.

'Typically, Labor Day kicks off the intense political season,' said DuBos. 'Sort of like the most intense part of hurricane season is also the most intense part of political season.'

The election is Nov. 4.

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