Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards Headed to Runoff Election

October 14, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON  — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards bid for a second term as the Deep South’s only Democratic governor will stretch to a Nov. 16 runoff election after voters failed on Saturday to award him more than 50% of the vote in a six-candidate primary.

Edwards will compete in the runoff election against Eddie Rispone, a Baton Rouge businessman who bankrolled much of his own campaign.

“We’ve got a little more work to do,” Edwards told supporters at an election night watch party in Baton Rouge.

“It’s because of you that we’re going to win in November,” he said. “I want to thank each and every one of you who have shared in my vision for this great state that we get to call home. Let’s keep working together, harder than ever before, to continue to put Louisiana first.”

All told, Edwards received 46.6% of the vote, garnered the support of 626,000 voters, while the top Republican vote getter and second place finisher, Eddie Rispone, received 27.4 percent of the vote, garnering the support of 383,318 voters.

Rep. Ralph Abraham, another Republican, got 23.6 percent of the vote, pulling in the support of 317,115 voters, while three other candidates, Oscar Dantzler, a Democrat, Patrick Landry, a Republican, and Gary Landrieu, an Independent, each ended the night with less than 1 percent of the votes, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office.

The governor’s race in Louisiana has been a focal point for national Republicans who want to paint Edwards’ 2015 victory as a fluke, rather than a harbinger of change in the deeply red region.

In the weeks leading up to the primary, the GOP spent lavishly on advertising and get-out-the-vote events, all in the hope of denying Edwards the votes he needed to avoid a runoff.

President Donald Trump held an election-eve campaign rally in Lake Charles, Louisiana on Friday night, standing alongside both Rispone and Republican runner-up Rep. Ralph Abraham.

During his remarks, Trump pressed Louisianans to vote for one of the GOP candidates and deny Edwards the outright victory.

The two Republicans also appeared at similar events over the past week with Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son.

The president attempted to take a victory lap Saturday night, taking credit via Twitter for Edwards’ not winning a second term as governor outright.

Trump claimed “after I explained what a bad job [Edwards] was doing, the governor’s poll numbers dropped 19 points overnight.”

However, according to Real Clear Politics, which compiles public polls, Edward’s highest vote share in pre-primary polling was 52 percent, and he mostly hovered around 45 percent, which was just a point higher than the percentage he received Saturday.

In a speech to supporters on Saturday night, Edwards, a conservative Democrat who framed his campaign around the message “people over politics,” remained defiant in the face of the Republican push.

“Over the next 5 weeks, the partisan forces in Washington, D.C., are going to pull out all the stops,” he said. “And there’s nothing they won’t say or do to try to win this election, but it won’t work.”

As for Rispone, he told his supporters Saturday night that the outcome of the primary “is just the first step.”

“With your prayers, we’re going to win,” he said. “We’re going to turn this state around.” 

Rispone reportedly spent about $11 million of his own money on the race, pouring most of it into digital and TV advertising.

Five Republican statewide elected officials on the ballot won reelection: Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Attorney General Jeff Landry, Treasurer John Schroder, Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon.

Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin was also forced into a runoff.

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