Voter turnout key in 1st Circuit race

A jam-packed Nov. 6 election ballot drew a whopping 67 percent voter turnout for the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal race featuring incumbent Judge Mike McDonald, but with a paltry turnout expected for the Dec. 8 runoff, McDonald and challenger Gideon Carter III are scrambling to reignite voter interest.

“There’s still an election. This thing’s not over yet. You need to go vote,” urged McDonald, a 66-year-old Baton Rouge Republican who has sat on the Baton Rouge-based 1st Circuit bench since 2003.

McDonald almost won re-election outright in the primary, collecting nearly 49 percent of the 152,813 votes cast.

Carter, a Baton Rouge lawyer and Democrat, received 31 percent of the vote and forced a runoff with McDonald. State District Judge Trudy White, a Republican, picked up the remaining 20 percent, not enough to secure a spot in the runoff.

“It’s an uphill battle,” Carter said. “It’s not over yet.”

McDonald, who said he is trying to reach as many voters as possible in an effort to “just get people back out there” to the polls, continues to tout his 26 years of judicial experience, including 16 years on the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge.

“The same issues are applicable here (in the runoff) — experience,” he said.

Carter, a lawyer for the past 28 years, said he is trying to maintain his visibility as the runoff election draws nearer.

“I’m getting in front of people as often as possible,” he said. “We’re focusing on getting my message out: Getting it right matters.”

The election is for a 10-year appeal court term.

Early voting is through Dec. 1.

McDonald has said the law and the Constitution have guided his rulings, and he provides justice that is “fair and consistent.”

Carter, who has been involved in school desegregation cases in East Baton Rouge Parish and surrounding parishes, says he has represented clients from all walks of life and will bring a “different perspective” to the appellate court.

The 1st Circuit seat — 2nd District, Subdistrict 1, Division B — encompasses a large portion of East Baton Rouge, including the southern and southeastern parts of the parish, Central, Zachary and Baker.

The subdistrict has 227,545 people qualified to vote in the election, according to the Secretary of State’s website. Of that number, 61.4 percent are white, 34 percent are black and 4.6 percent are classified “other.” The website indicates 44.6 percent are male, 55.3 percent are female and the gender of 0.1 percent is unknown. Also, 45.1 percent of the electorate are Democrats, 32.4 percent are Republicans and 22.6 percent are registered to other parties or to no party.