Governor John Bel Edwards Edges Out Republican Challenger Eddie Rispone

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Governor John Bel Edwards Defeats Republican Challenger Eddie Rispone

Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards overcame a tight challenge Saturday to narrowly win reelection in a state President Donald Trump carried by 20 points.

Trump visited Louisiana three times during the campaign, but it wasn’t enough to push Republican first-time candidate Eddie Rispone over the top.

With 99% of precincts reporting, Edwards held a 40,000 vote advantage. In light of the results, Rispone conceded defeat.

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On the campaign trail, Edwards touted the stabilization of state finances after years of deficits and budget cuts, raises for teachers and better funding for education, and expanding Medicaid to more than 450,000 working adults. He painted Rispone as a throwback to former Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican who was broadly unpopular by the time he left office.

Rispone, the co-founder of a large industrial firm, emphasized his alignment with Trump and argued his business success demonstrates his ability to run the state. He described Edwards, an attorney by trade, as a “liberal trial lawyer” and blamed him for the tax increases he and the Republican-controlled Louisiana Legislature enacted.

Republicans tried to nationalize the race by associating Edwards with socialist Democrats and the U.S. House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry. But Edwards, a former Army Ranger who is pro-gun and anti-abortion, had just enough appeal to eke out a win in socially conservative Louisiana where no other Democrat holds statewide office.

In the open primary held Oct. 12, when every candidate ran on the same ballot regardless of party, Edwards finished first with almost 47% of the vote but fell short of the majority he needed to win the race outright. Rispone earned about 27% of the vote, edging out Republican Congressman Ralph Abraham for second place and securing a spot in Saturday’s runoff.

Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, though he will be joined by fellow Democrat Andy Beshear, who just won a similarly close race in Kentucky.

By David Jacobs/The Center Square

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