Louisiana’s Republican challenger Eddie Rispone conceded Saturday’s runoff election to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards in a late-night address to his conservative supporters gathered at the L’Auberge Casino & Hotel in Baton Rouge. According to reporters for The Advocate and WAFB, Rispone also made a concession phone call to Edwards after various media outlets called the race in favor of the incumbent Democrat.
By Sunday morning, with 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Louisiana’s Secretary of State election results page had Edwards collecting 51 percent of the votes and Rispone collecting 49 percent. The site reported an unofficial margin of 40,000 votes, with overall voter turnout pegged at 50.7 percent.
President Trump had made three trips to Louisiana to campaign for Rispone and the national media made the runoff state election into a Trump referendum.
Louisiana is seen as a conservative stronghold, however Governor Edwards is an unusual Democrat as he holds pro-gun and anti-abortion positions, attracting a number of supporters who otherwise vote Republican.
According to The Advocate, “Edwards expanded the Medicaid rolls, which Republicans have refused to do elsewhere for years, to cover about half a million working poor adults. But he also signed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bans, which Democrats have opposed.”
Edwards’ second term as governor will begin with strong Republican majorities in the state Senate and House. Other than the governor, GOP officials hold all the elected state-level agency heads and seven of the eight seats in the U.S. House and Senate.
Rispone was a political unknown before entering the governor’s race in 2018 but had been a strong Republican donor and an adviser to former GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal.
During the runoff campaign, polls indicated that Edwards and Rispone were neck and neck with little movement in either of the candidates’ level of support among eligible voters.
According to The Advocate:
Campaigning became more bare knuckles when Trump stormed Louisiana. The president turned the race from one about taxes and economic development into one that the national media called a referendum on the president and his red-meat national issues at a time he is facing impeachment.
Trump remains a popular figure in Louisiana, three years after winning the state by almost 20 points in the presidential election, but his efforts on behalf of Rispone failed to deliver the results he hoped for.
Entering Saturday’s vote, election watchers expected the governor’s race to come down to voter turnout, as in which campaign could inspire more of their voters to take the time to go to the polls. The Edwards campaign evidently edged out Rispone’s volunteers in that regard.
The Advocate reported:
Edwards supporters organized substantial get-out-the-vote efforts for the runoff and succeeded in raising black voter participation from 25% in the October primary’s first round of voting to 31% of the early voters in the runoff. The Secretary of State’s Office will have more definitive numbers on voter demographics in the runoff later this week.
Black politicos, such as newly elected state Sen. Cleo Fields and state Sen. Regina Barrow, organized get-out-the-vote rallies, as did unions. Urban churches and progressive advocacy groups used a newly developed micro-targeting technique to identify lower-income and black voters who didn’t participate in the October primary.
Edwards had overwhelming support in Louisiana cities, particularly New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport.
“The result will come as a major disappointment to President Trump,” Fox News reported. Trump’s three visits to Louisiana, however, “motivated not only conservative Republicans but also powered a surge in anti-Trump and black voter turnout that helped Edwards.”
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