Democrat Governor John Bel Edwards defeated Republican challenger Eddie Respinoe in the run-off for the governorship in Louisiana. Edwards, who was elected to replace Bobby Jindal in 2016, wins a second term in a narrow race that drew national attention. Edwards used strong performances in southern Louisiana to hold onto his seat, as well as near Shreveport.
Edwards won his first seat by a more comfortable margin, taking 56% of the vote in the run-off against Republican David Vitter, but becoming the first Democrat to win a statewide race in Louisiana since 2008. Edwards sends Louisiana Democrats more encouragement by repeating those results in the Saturday run-off.
Rispone’s loss is another in a rough series of elections for Trump-endorsed candidates. Despite the state going for the president by 20 points in 2016, his influence did not make enough of a difference for the Republican candidate. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin also lost a recent election, despite the president’s efforts. Bevin was considered unpopular, and all other statewide Republican candidates were successful in their election efforts. Similarly, this election doesn’t put Louisiana’s 2020 electoral votes into doubt. Still, underperformance with particular subgroups here could cost Trump in tighter states during his reelection effort.
Rispone had edged out fellow Republican Ralph Abraham, who also had the support of the president, in the state’s combined primary election on October 12th. Under that system, the top two candidates, regardless of party, advance to the run-off, unless a candidate achieves more than 50% (in which case no run-off is necessary). Edwards received 46.6% in the primary, and Rispone beat Abraham 27.4% to 23.6%. Oscar Dantzler, the only other Democrat running, received 0.8%, as did Republican Patrick Landry and Independent Gary Landrieu.
Edwards is a former Army Ranger, and fairly politically moderate. He signed Louisiana’s “heartbeat bill” abortion ban, which prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, and he opposes new gun control legislation. However, now that he is term-limited, Edwards may move further to the left without the threat of reelection looming.
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