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John Bel Edwards Wins Reelection in Louisiana

November 18, 2019 by Dan McCue

Louisiana reelected Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards Saturday, dealing a stunning blow to Republicans who had banked on President Donald Trump’s popularity in the conservative state to return the governor’s mansion to the GOP.

Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the deep south and was seen as genuinely vulnerable after his failure to win reelection outright in the state’s jungle primary last month.

Trump himself made three trips to Louisiana to rally against Edwards, but the governor’s focus on bipartisanship and state-specific issues enabled him to prevail over Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, garnering 51 percent of the vote.

Working with the majority-Republican Legislature, Edwards stabilized state finances with a package of tax increases, digging the state out of a deep deficit. As the state’s fiscal health improved, Edwards invested in public colleges and the first statewide teacher raise in a decade.

He also expanded Louisiana’s Medicaid program, lowering the state’s uninsured rate below the national average. A bipartisan criminal sentencing law rewrite he championed ended Louisiana’s tenure as the nation’s top jailer.

Coming after a defeat in the Kentucky governor’s race and sizable losses in Virginia’s legislative races, the Louisiana result seems certain to rattle Republicans heading into the 2020 presidential election.

Exit polls showed that in addition to his focus on local issues, Edwards benefits from a surge in anti-Trump sentiment and a high black voter turnout.

“How sweet is it,” declared Edwards at his victory rally late Saturday night.

“And as for the president, God bless his heart,” he said. “Tonight the people of Louisiana have chosen to chart their own path,” Edwards said.

Meanwhile, across town in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Rispone asked his disappointed supporters to give a round of applause to Trump.

“That man loves America and he loves Louisiana,” said Rispone, who had closely aligned himself with the president and the president’s policies during his campaign.

In the end, however, it may have been Rispone’s shortcomings as a candidate and Edward’s personal conservatism that were the Republican candidate’s undoing.

Rispone had little name recognition when he entered the race for governor, and even after he came in second in the primary, he offered few details about what he’d do if elected.

Edwards, meanwhile, didn’t fit the mold of a candidate Republicans could bash as a liberal or a dreaded socialist.

A West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, Edwards has long said he opposes most restrictions on gun ownership and signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans.

He’s also not thrown his lot in with supporters of the impeachment of Trump, calling the effort a distraction from the looming 2020 elections.

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