While it wasn’t drawing all that much press attention (given all the other drama going on), Louisiana was finishing up their latest round of elections this week. Many of the races ended up as predicted, but Governor John Bel Edwards didn’t manage to come up with a majority in the blanket primary. That means he’s heading into a runoff against a self-funded Republican opponent who has attracted the support of President Trump in a state that Trump carried by twenty points in 2016. (Associated Press)
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ quest for a second term as the Deep South’s only Democratic governor will stretch over another month, as voters denied him an outright primary win Saturday and sent him to a runoff election.
The incumbent’s inability to top 50% of the vote in the six-candidate field raised questions about his reelection chances against a national Republican offensive that includes President Donald Trump. Trump made a last-minute appeal to Louisiana’s voters to reject Edwards.
Edwards will compete in the Nov. 16 runoff against Eddie Rispone, a Baton Rouge businessman and longtime GOP political donor making his first bid for public office.
Edwards may not have crossed the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff, but he appears to have come in at around 46%. That’s actually an improvement for him from 2015 when he finished the primary with 39%, going on to win a decisive, eleven point victory over Republican David Vitter. (Vitter was embroiled in a prostitution scandal at the time and considered by many to be a weak candidate.)
Since Edwards is the only Democrat holding statewide office at the moment, can he continue to buck the trend and win a second term? That all depends on Republican candidate Eddie Rispone. He’s a business owner from Baton Rouge who has never held elected office before. He outspent his GOP primary opponent by a wide margin and would up splitting the conservative/GOP vote 22/20 with a projected 8% still undecided, so this could really come down to the wire.
Having President Trump’s vocal and physically present support should boost Rispone. But will it, given all of the flotsam and jetsam in the news every hour of the day? I suppose what we’re about to find out is how well both the Democrats and the Republicans vetted Rispone leading up to this race and if there’s any damaging oppo research out there waiting in his closet. Of course, if there had been you’d think they would have broken it out during the primary. (But you never know, right?)
Except as a possible bellwether for next November, the final result probably won’t change all that much for people outside of Louisiana. It’s not as if Edwards is any sort of far-left, socialist Democrat. Most of the other national Democrats don’t really even want to be seen standing next to him. He’s about as conservative as you can get while still having a “D” after your name. But as I said, this might turn out to be an interesting test of how well Donald Trump’s influence is holding up with the base as the impeachment follies drag on.