Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards falls short of majority, will face Republican Eddie Rispone in 2nd round
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
BATON ROUGE (CFP) — The Louisiana governor’s race will be decided in a November runoff after Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards fell short of the majority he needed to knock out his two Republican challengers.
Edwards will face Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, who came in second place in the first round of voting Saturday. The runoff is Nov. 16.
Edwards took 47 percent of the vote to 27 percent for Rispone and 24 percent for the third place finisher, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham from Alto.
Under Louisiana’s “jungle” primary system, candidates from all parties run together in the same contest, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the runoff if no one gets an outright majority.
Six other statewide offices were also on the ballot Saturday. Five Republican incumbents won without a runoff, but Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin fell short of a majority and will face Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup in November.
With pre-election polls showing Edwards within striking distance of winning the primary outright, President Donald Trump held a rally Friday night in Lake Charles to rally Republican voters, calling both Abraham and Rispone to the stage.
The president and most of the state’s Republican congressional delegation did not take sides in the battle between Abraham and Rispone, focusing their fire instead on Edwards.
“Louisiana cannot take four more years of a liberal Democrat governor,” said Trump, who accused the governor of “taking money from open borders extremists.”
Edwards, 53, is one of just three Democratic governors in the South, along with North Carolina’s Roy Cooper and Virginia’s Ralph Northam. But unlike Northam and Cooper, Edwards has positioned himself as a conservative Democrat who opposes legal abortion and gun control, both of which have played well in Louisiana.
As a result, national Democrats, including the large crop of 2020 White House contenders, have conspicuously avoided campaigning on his behalf, although former President Barack Obama did make a robocall for the governor.
In 2015, Edwards claimed the governorship by defeating Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter, who was bogged down by personal scandals and the unpopularity of the outgoing GOP governor, Bobby Jindal.
Edwards signature achievements in office have been expanding Medicaid, over Republican objections, and dealing with a budget shortfall he inherited from Jindal.
However, the tax increases imposed to deal with the budget have become fodder for his Republican opponents, who say the new taxes have driven business out of the state.
A Morning Consult poll in June put Edwards’s job approval rating at 47 percent, compared to 33 percent who disapproved.
Rispone, 70, owns an industrial contracting company that has made him one of Louisiana’s richest men. While he has long been a major GOP donor, this is his first race for political office, and he has poured in more than $10 million of his own money.
In addition to Louisiana, two other Southern states will hold governor’s races this year, Kentucky and Mississippi.