- The Washington Times
Saturday, November 16, 2019

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is declaring victory Saturday night with unofficial election results apparently showing the first-term Democrat holding on to the governor’s mansion, surviving a Republican campaign blitz that included campaign rallies headlined by President Trump.

As of 10:30 p.m. local time with 99% of the vote counted, Mr. Edwards leads Republican Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone by nearly 40,000 votes out of more than 1.5 million cast, according to unofficial returns posted on the website of the secretary of state.

A victory for Mr. Edwards would means the Democrats will have won two of the three 2019 gubernatorial races in which President Trump threw his support behind the Republican candidates. The Democrats took back the keys to the Kentucky governor’s mansion while the Mississippi GOP’s Tate Reeves managed to easily fend off Democratic challenger and state Attorney General Jim Hood on Nov. 5.

Polls that showed the Louisiana candidates deadlocked on the eve of voting proved accurate.

It was a close run thing all night. At 9 p.m., an hour after the polls closed and with almost 1 million votes counted, fewer than 2,000 separated the candidates, according to unofficial returns.

The returns showed Mr. Edwards running strong as expected in Democratic urban strongholds New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but also winning swaths across the northern border of the boot’s laces and in the state’s northwest corner.

Mr. Rispone, meanwhile, easily took the most parishes but many of them in the southwest and running through the middle of Louisiana are more sparsely populated.

While the race probably has no bearing on Mr. Trump’s chances of winning Louisiana in 2020, it was nonetheless a blow to his ability to boost other, much weaker Republican candidates across the finish line.

A flurry of tweets Saturday morning from Mr. Turmp, Vice President Mike Pence and other GOP leaders urged voters to get out on Mr. Rispone´s behalf, reinforcing the message Mr. Trump made in three separate rallies he held in Louisiana in the past month.

Mr. Edwards, meanwhile, relied on massive PAC funding from Louisiana trial lawyers, and a final days cash infusion from a group tied with former President Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder. With the country enjoying an economic surge under Mr. Trump, Louisiana has to some extent rode those coattails during Mr. Edwards first term.

In addition to a stronger economy than he inherited, the Edwards campaign was built around his past as a West Point graduate and a much more moderate Democrat than the coastal liberals who run the national party.

Mr. Rispone has long been a Republican donor, but this marked his debut as a candidate, and throughout the campaign he continued to stress his outsider status and longtime backing of Mr. Trump.

Indeed, at times it seemed as if the Washington D.C. based consultants who ran the Rispone campaign were either not interested or unable to craft a state-based message. Money was no issue for the campaign, as Mr. Rispone largely bankrolled it himself with more than $11.5 million in personal loans.

In another statewide race Saturday, Louisiana’s Republican secretary of state, Kyle Ardoin, cruised to an easy reelection victory with 59% of the vote, further underscoring the weakness of Mr. Rispone’s candidacy.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.