Edwards’s victory is a blow to Republicans and President Donald Trump after earlier GOP loss in Kentucky
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
NEW ORLEANS (CFP) — Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards has narrowly won re-election to a second term, defeating Republican Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone.
The win by Edwards in Saturday’s runoff gives Democrats victories in two out of three Southern governor’s races this year, despite fervent interventions in all three races by President Donald Trump in states he carried handily in 2016.
Edwards took 51 percent of the vote in the runoff to 49 percent to Rispone, one of Louisiana’s wealthiest businessmen who was making his first bid for political office.
“How sweet it is,” Edwards said in his victory speech to supporters at a New Orleans hotel. “You didn’t just vote for me. You voted for four more years of putting Louisiana first.”
Edwards is the first Democrat to win a second term as Louisiana’s chief executive since Edwin Edwards (no relation) won re-election in 1975.
In the other statewide office on the ballot Saturday, Republican incumbent Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin easily defeated Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent.
During the first round of voting in October, Edwards took 47 percent of the vote to 27 percent for Rispone, who had tried to close the gap by unifying the Republican vote, which he had split with the third place finisher, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham.
Trump — who carried Louisiana by 20 points in 2016 — visited the state three times during the campaign, most recently on Thursday night when he implored a rally in Bossier City that “you’ve gotta give me a big win” by electing Rispone.
Edwards responded to Trump’s involvement in the race with a classic Southern putdown in his victory speech.
“And as for the president — God bless his heart,” Edwards said. “If this campaign has taught us anything, it’s that the partisan forces in Washington, D.C. are not strong enough to break through the bonds that we share as Louisianans.”
Rispone led most of the night as the votes were counted, but Edwards caught and passed him as the vote came in from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport, where the governor rolled up large margins of victory — more than 90 percent in Orleans Parish.
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 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 the first round of the primary.
Louisiana’s governor’s race is the last contest on the 2019 election calendar and comes less than two weeks after Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, was defeated for re-election by Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, despite Trump campaigning on Bevin’s behalf.
Republicans had more success in Mississippi, where Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves won the governorship over Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood.