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Louisiana governor’s race heads to a November runoff

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.

Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards will face Republican Eddie Rispone in Nov. 12 runoff

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.

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards aiming for knockout in Saturday’s jungle primary

Trump making election-eve visit to Lake Charles to rally Republicans and force Edwards into a runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

BATON ROUGE (CFP) — Unless pre-election polls are seriously off the mark, Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards will come out on top when the votes are counted in Saturday’s primary election.

So the two questions to be answered Saturday are whether Edwards can knock out both of his Republican challengers by clearing 50 percent of the vote and, if he doesn’t, which of the two leading Republicans he will face in a November runoff.

Governor John Bel Edwards

In Louisiana’s “jungle” primary, 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. Polls have put Edwards within striking distance of that mark, which would be a significant embarrassment for the GOP in the very conservative Pelican State.

In the clearest sign of Republicans’ concern about the outcome, President Donald Trump is holding a rally in Lake Charles on Friday night, even though he has not taken sides in the battle for second place between U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham from Alto and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone.

Both Abraham and Rispone, who have sparred with each other and with Edwards during the campaign, have welcomed the president’s visit for what Trump termed “a big Republican rally” designed to leverage his popularity into forcing Edwards into a runoff against a single GOP challenger.

Edwards 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.

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.

Abraham, 65, who is both a veterinarian and medical doctor, is in his third term in Congress representing the 5th District, which covers the northeastern corner of the state.

Rispone, 70, owns a building 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.

Other elected Republicans, including both U.S. senators and most of the House delegation, have stayed on the sidelines in the race between Abraham and Rispone. Both Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. have held rallies in Louisiana that both candidates attended.

In addition to Louisiana, two other Southern states will hold governor’s races this year, Kentucky and Mississippi.

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U.S. Senator John Kennedy won’t run for Louisiana governor in 2019

Kennedy would have been formidable obstacle to re-election of Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — U.S. Senator John Kennedy will not run for Louisiana’s governorship in 2019, opting not to make what would have been a formidable challenge to Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards’s prospects for re-election.

“It is such an honor to represent the people of Louisiana in the United States Senate. Right now, that’s where I think I can do the most good,” he said in a December 3 statement announcing his decision.

U.S. Senator John Kennedy

The outspoken Kennedy also offered a blistering critique of the condition of state government back in the Pelican State.

“I hope someone runs for Governor who understands that Louisiana state government does not have to be a big, slow, dumb, wasteful, sometimes corrupt, spend-money-like-it-was-ditchwater, anti-taxpayer, top down institution,” he said.

“I love Louisiana as much as I love my country, and the people of my state deserve a state government as good as they are.”

Kennedy, who has won six statewide elections, was the most prominent name among Republicans considering the governor’s race, and his decision not to run is good news for Edwards, who is trying to win re-election as a Democrat in an increasingly Republican state.

The only Republican in the race so far is Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham of Alto has also said he is considering entering the contest and will announce his decision by January 1.

Kennedy, 67, was elected to the Senate in 2016 on his third try after a long career in state politics. He spent 17 years as state treasurer and served in the administrations of governors Buddy Roemer and Mike Foster. He switched parties from Democrat to Republican in 2007, while treasurer.

During his time in the Senate, Kennedy has become known as one of the chamber’s most quotable members, offering often blunt and colorful analogies.

He once described Facebook’s behavior as “getting into the foothills of creepy,” and after sexual harassment charges rocked Hollywood, said that he didn’t know how movies were getting made “because it looks like they’re all busy molesting each other.”

Taking issue with the practice of credit reporting companies to charge consumers for protecting their information, Kennedy said, “I don’t pay extra in a restaurant to prevent the waiter from spitting in my food.”

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards

Edwards, 52, won the governorship in 2015 by defeating then-U.S. Senator David Vitter, and is the only Democrat to hold a governorship in the Deep South. Kennedy was then elected to Vitter’s seat.

In the 2015 campaign, Edwards benefited from the unpopularity of the outgoing Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, as well as personal issues surrounding Vitter, who publicly admitted to patronizing prostitutes.

This time around, Republicans will make Edwards’s record the issue, including tax hikes and Medicaid expansion that he pushed through the legislature and a controversial program to reduce prison sentences for non-violent offenders.

In Louisiana, all candidates for governor run against each other in a so-called “jungle” primary in October, with the two top vote-getters advancing to a November runoff if no one gets a majority. The Republican field will most likely be competing for the second spot against Edwards.

Louisiana is one of four states that elect governors in off years. Neighboring Mississippi will also have a governor’s election in 2019.

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U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham ends bid for GOP presidential nomination

Graham’s decision opens up political space for the February 20 South Carolina primary

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com

south-carolina mugCOLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Mired in single digits in the polls and relegated to the undercard in the Republican debates, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has ended his bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham

But Graham, who made national security and the battle against ISIS the centerpiece of his White House run, said his campaign has changed the conversation within the Republican field on those issues, pushing the party toward a more hawkish stance.

“I got into this race to put forward a plan to win a war we cannot afford to lose and to turn back the tide of isolationism that was rising in our party,” he said in a YouTube video posted December 22 announcing his departure. “I believe we made enormous progress in this effort.”

Graham said most the Republican candidates have come around to his thinking on one issue in particular–the need to use American ground forces to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Graham’s departure allows him to take his name off the ballot for the South Carolina primary, avoiding what could have been an embarrassing defeat in his home state.

South Carolina will hold its pivotal presidential primary on February 20, less than two weeks after the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary. The vote in the Palmetto State will be the first test of strength in the South.

After his withdrawal announcement, Graham told CNN that he has no plans to endorse any of the other candidates in the field. However, his departure could free up Graham supporters in South Carolina to sign on with other candidates.

During the campaign, Graham has been a strong critic of GOP front-runner Donald Trump, which could give him a strong incentive to back another candidate who could defeat the real-estate magnate.

Graham, 60, won his third term in the Senate in 2014. He is one of the Senate’s strongest hawks on military and national security issues, but he has also run afoul of some conservatives in his party for supporting immigration reform and crossing the aisle to make bi-partisan deals with Democrats.

He is the third Southern Republican presidential candidate to exit the race so far, after former Texas Governor Rick Perry and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

The remaining Southern GOP candidates are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jim Gilmore of Virginia.

 

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal ends campaign for GOP presidential nomination

Jindal’s decision comes after he was unable to gain traction in the polls or a place in the top-tier debates

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugWASHINGTON (CFP) — Saying it was “not my time,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has ended his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

“We spend a lot of time developing detailed policy papers, and given this crazy, unpredictable election season, clearly there just wasn’t a lot of interest in those policy papers,” Jindal said in a November 17 appearance on Fox News, where he announced he was suspending his campaign.

“Certainly, we thought it would end differently, but the reality is, this is not my time.”

Jindal, 44, whose term as Louisiana’s chief executive ends in January, said he will return to the think tank he founded, America Next, after he leaves office.

When he was elected in 2007, Jindal, a former congressman and official in the George W. Bush administration, was one of America’s youngest governors and was considered to be a rising star in the GOP.

But amid a budget crisis in Baton Rouge, Jindal saw his approval ratings back home plunge, and he was unable to get out of the low single digits in polling of the crowded Republican presidential field.

Jindal had been relegated to the second tier in the first three GOP debates.

Jindal becomes the second Southern Republican to exit the race, joining former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who left in September.

The remaining candidates are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jim Gilmore of Virginia.

Democrat John Bel Edwards posts strong win in first round of Louisiana governor’s race

U.S. Senator David Vitter edges out two fellow Republicans for second spot in the November 21 runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugBATON ROUGE (CFP) — Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards has made a strong showing in the first round of Louisiana’s gubernatorial election, easily outdistancing Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter and giving himself a chance to become that rarest of creatures — a Democratic governor in the South.

Louisiana State Rep. John Bel Edwards

Louisiana State Rep. John Bel Edwards

In the state’s October 24 all-party “jungle” primary, Edwards took 40 percent, easily outdistancing the eight other candidates and advancing to the November 21 runoff. Despite having won statewide twice before, Vitter could only manage 23 percent, although that was enough to edge out two other major Republican contenders, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne.

Although the Republican vote is expected to congeal around Vitter in the runoff, the senator — who has been plagued by a persistent sex scandal and trailed Edwards by nearly 188,000 votes in the first round — has a lot of ground to make up. If Edwards wins, he will be one of just four Democrats holding governor’s posts in the South, with the others being in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.

If the candidates’ election night speeches are any indication, the runoff is likely to be loud and nasty .

“Over the next few weeks, David Vitter is going to spend millions of dollars lying about my record, lying about my values (and) lying about my service to our country and to our state, ” Edwards told cheering supporters in Baton Rouge. “He’s desperate, and all he offers are lies and hypocrisy.”

“Somehow, the least effective senator in the United States Senate wants to be our next governor. We’re not going to allow that to happen.”

U.S. Senator David Vitter

U.S. Senator David Vitter

But Vitter told his supporters in suburban New Orleans that “even after President Obama shut down drilling in the Gulf and tried to limit our gun rights and belittled our religious beliefs and pushed amnesty for illegals, John Bel Edwards personally renominated President Obama in the Democratic National Convention.”

“So let’s be clear. Jon Bel Edwards not a casual supporter of Barack Obama. He is a true believer.”

Linking Edwards to Obama and more specifically, Obamacare, is replay of the 2014 U.S. Senate race, when Republicans managed to sink Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu in a state which Obama lost by 17 points in 2012.

However, unlike Landrieu, Edwards is opposed to abortion and gun control, positions that are likely to help him in the culturally conservative Pelican State. But he has come out in favor of expanding Medicaid for uninsured Louisianians, which is a part of Obamacare that many conservatives strongly oppose.

Edwards, 49, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger from Amite, has been in the legislature since 2008. This is his first bid for statewide office.

Vitter, 54, opted to seek the governor’s post instead of running for re-election to the Senate in 2016. He continued to be dogged throughout the campaign by details of a 2007 sex scandal in which he was linked to a prostitution ring in Washington and publicly admitted to unspecified “sin.”

The issue was re-ignited in the closing days of the gubernatorial campaign when a blogger published claims by a former prostitute that she had a relationship with Vitter and that he had pressured her to have abortion after she became pregnant with his child. Vitter denied the allegations.

Edwards made it clear on election night that he would put Vitter’s character front-and-center in the runoff.

“I live by the (West Point) honor code — a cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do. And David Vitter wouldn’t last five minutes at West Point,” he said.

One area in which the two men agree is in their critical assessment of incumbent Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, whose approval ratings have plunged as the state dealt with a fiscal crisis. The term-limited Jindal is now running for president.

“Whoever you voted for, we can agree on one big thing: The politicians in Baton Rouge have created on heck of a mess — the state budget in disarray, eight years of cuts to higher education, and so many of our best and brightest having to leave the state for good opportunity,” Vitter said. “We’re going to take our future back.”

While Vitter stopped short of mentioning Jindal by name, Edwards showed no such reticence.

“For eight years, our people have been sacrificed on the altar of Bobby Jindal’s ambition. No more,” Edwards said. “We need a committed, honest, disciplined governor with the leadership ability to bring people together, regardless of race, gender, party (or) geography.”

On The Trail: U.S. Senator Rand Paul barnstorms key early presidential caucus state of Nevada

Kentucky senator makes pitch to Latino libertarian group in Las Vegas

♦By Andy Donahue, Chickenfriedpolitics.com contributor

on-the-trail-nevadaLAS VEGAS (CFP) – Just hours after CNN’s Republican presidential debate, U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky barnstormed Nevada, taking his presidential campaign on a four-city sweep of the key early caucus state.

Paul began his Nevada tour in Carson City before attending events in Reno and Ely and wrapping up with an appearance at a Latino public policy forum at the College of Southern Nevada near Las Vegas on September 17.

Rand Paul addresses Latino group in Las Vegas.

Rand Paul addresses Latino group in Las Vegas.

The event was hosted by the LIBRE Initiative, a non-partisan group that advocates limited government and free enterprise, providing a congenial and receptive audience for Paul, who hails from the libertarian wing of the GOP

Paul made frequent, poignant allusions to Spanish literature throughout his address while telling his own narrative of learning small amounts of Spanish from immigrant children his own age while growing up in Texas. He said the vast wealth and income discrepancies between him and these children were instrumental in his dedication to immigration and border security solutions.

To address these inequalities, Paul is campaigning on an immigration plan built on the economics of supply and demand, advocating for job specific visas that are “proportional” to the number of openings for each job.

Paul saluted the Latino community’s shared commitment to hard work, telling the audience that he “never sees a Hispanic pan-handler.”

Paul also quoted Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez as a source of “advice Republicans might consider,” reciting a line from “Love in the Time of Cholera” to call on his country and his party to seek renewal:

“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them … Life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”

Nevada will hold its presidential caucuses on February 23, 2016, with 30 delegates at stake. It is the fourth event in the 2016 primary calendar–after Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina–and the first test of strength in the West.

Paul is one of eight Southern candidates in the GOP race. The others are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jim Gilmore of Virginia; and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

The lone Southern seeking the Democratic nomination is former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia.

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