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La. Governor Edwards Wins Re-Election  11/17 07:45

   Deep in the heart of the conservative South, Louisiana's voters reelected 
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards to a second term, shocking Republicans who had 
hoped to reclaim the seat on the strength of President Donald Trump's 
popularity.

   BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Deep in the heart of the conservative South, 
Louisiana's voters reelected Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards to a second term, 
shocking Republicans who had hoped to reclaim the seat on the strength of 
President Donald Trump's popularity.

   With his focus on bipartisan, state-specific issues, the moderate Edwards 
cobbled together enough cross-party support Saturday to defeat Republican 
businessman Eddie Rispone, getting about 51% of the vote.

   Trump fought to return the seat to the GOP, but his intense interest in the 
race not only motivated conservative Republicans, but also powered a surge in 
anti-Trump and black voter turnout that helped boost Edwards over the finish 
line.

   Coming after a defeat in the Kentucky governor's race and sizable losses in 
Virginia's legislative races, the Louisiana result seems certain to rattle 
Republicans heading into the 2020 presidential election. Trump made three trips 
to Louisiana to rally against Edwards, and fashioned the runoff election 
between Edwards and Rispone into a test of his own popularity and political 
prowess.

   In a victory rally of his own late Saturday, Edwards thanked supporters who 
danced, sang and cheered in celebration, while he declared, "How sweet it is!"

   He added, "And as for the president, God bless his heart" --- a phrase often 
used by genteel Southerners to politely deprecate someone.

   "Tonight the people of Louisiana have chosen to chart their own path," 
Edwards said.

   As he conceded the race, Rispone called on supporters to give a round of 
applause for Trump, saying: "That man loves America and he loves Louisiana."

   Democrats who argue that nominating a moderate presidential candidate is the 
best approach to beat Trump are certain to say Louisiana's race bolsters their 
case.

   Still, while Rispone's loss raises questions about the strength of Trump's 
coattails, its relevance to his reelection chances are less clear. Louisiana is 
expected to easily back Trump next year, and Edwards' views are, in many ways, 
out of step with his own party.

   A West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, Edwards opposes most gun 
restrictions, signed one of the nation's strictest abortion bans and dismissed 
the impeachment effort as a distraction.

   Meanwhile, Rispone, 70, wasn't among the top-tier candidates Republican 
leaders hoped would challenge Edwards. He had ties to the unpopular former Gov. 
Bobby Jindal, started with little name recognition and offered few details 
about his agenda.

   Edwards, 53, also proved to be a formidable candidate, with a record of 
achievements.

   Working with the majority-Republican Legislature, Edwards stabilized state 
finances with a package of tax increases, ending the deficit-riddled years of 
Jindal. New money paid for investments in public colleges and the first 
statewide teacher raise in a decade.

   Edwards expanded Louisiana's Medicaid program, lowering the state's 
uninsured rate below the national average. A bipartisan criminal sentencing law 
rewrite he championed ended Louisiana's tenure as the nation's top jailer.

   Rispone, the owner of a Baton Rouge industrial contracting company, hitched 
his entire candidacy to Trump, introducing himself to voters in ads that 
focused on support for the president in a state Trump won by 20 percentage 
points. Rispone said he was like Trump, describing himself as a "conservative 
outsider" whose business acumen would help solve the state's problems.

   The president's repeated visits appeared to drive turnout for both 
candidates. 

   Tour guide Andrea Hartman, 40, cast her ballot for Edwards in New Orleans. 

   "I do not agree with what Rispone advocates," she said. "I also don't want 
Trump coming here and telling me who to vote for."

   Rispone poured more than $12 million of his own money into the race. But he 
had trouble drawing some of the primary vote that went to Republican U.S. Rep. 
Ralph Abraham, after harshly attacking Abraham in ads as he sought to reach the 
runoff. He also avoided many traditional public events attended by Louisiana 
gubernatorial candidates and sidestepped questions about his plans. He promised 
tax cuts without saying where he'd shrink spending, and pledged a 
constitutional convention without detailing what he wanted to rewrite.

   "We have nothing to be ashamed of. We had over 700,000 people in Louisiana 
who really want something better, something different," Rispone said.


(KR)

 
 
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