Louisiana Gubernatorial Race Stays Close ahead of Tomorrow’s Runoff

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards speaks in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 28, 2016. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

In mid October, Louisiana’s Democratic governor John Bel Edwards faced off in an open primary against two Republican candidates: U.S. congressman Ralph Abraham, who represents Louisiana’s fifth district, and businessman Eddie Rispone. Edwards pulled in 46.6 percent, while Rispone managed just 27.4 and Abraham 23.6.

As none of the three candidates reached the 50-percent threshold required to win the race outright, the top two vote-getters — Edwards and Rispone — are headed to a runoff. That contest will take place tomorrow, and polling indicates that it will be close.

According to the RealClearPolitics average of head-to-head polls featuring Edwards and Rispone, the incumbent Democrat leads by just .4 percent. The three polls taken since October’s open primary are extremely tight: Two have Edwards in the lead, by two and three points respectively, and the third (and most recent) shows Rispone leading by one point.

Edwards was first elected in 2015, the only sitting Democratic governor in a southern state and the only Democratic politician in statewide office in Louisiana. But he’s maintained a positive net-approval rating during his time in office, and in contrast to most Democratic governors in red states, he hasn’t become deeply unpopular with Republican voters. Edwards has also kept his support strong among independents.

For his part, Rispone has campaigned chiefly on his promise to spearhead an effort to hold a constitutional convention and amend the state constitution. Louisiana is one of only six states not to require a popular vote to call such a convention, leaving that responsibility to the legislature. He also has the full backing of President Trump, who did not pick a favorite in the open primary between Rispone and Abraham.

“If you want to defend your values, your jobs, and your freedom, then you need to REPLACE Radical Liberal John Bel Edwards with a true Louisiana Patriot: Eddie Rispone,” the president tweeted late last night.

Edwards is far from a radical liberal. He’s a rare moderate on policy, governing on a number of issues nearly indistinguishably from a Republican. (For instance, of all the states to pass a heartbeat bill protecting unborn children this year, only Louisiana’s was signed into law by a Democratic governor.) In one sense, that’s likely how he’s managed to retain his popularity, knowing that in a state like his, a Democrat is expected not to be a progressive. But it also makes him vulnerable: At a certain point, voters may wonder why they’re supporting a Democrat who governs like a Republican when they could have an actual Republican in his place.

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