Report from Louisiana: An Edwards/Rispone Runoff

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – It was a wild night in Louisiana Saturday night.  LSU defeated Florida in Death Valley and John Bel Edwards and Eddie Rispone will face off in five weeks for the runoff election for Louisiana governor.

Edwards finished the night with 46% of the vote while the Republican vote was split between Rispone and Ralph Abraham. Rispone captured 27% and Abraham 23%.  Other contenders in the gubernatorial race were mere blips.

Friday, President Trump visited Lake Charles, LA to lend support for the Republican candidates. He did not endorse either Rispone or Abraham until after the returns came in last night; now he has endorsed Rispone.   Trump, of course, takes credit for getting Rispone into the runoff, and he may well have contributed. Lines to get inside to see Trump in Lake Charles were staggeringly long and people began camping out far in advance of the event.

Most pundits across the state do not see an Edwards re-election as a done deal:

In either scenario, Edwards will have a much tougher time scooping up support from Republican voters than he did in his first election. Edwards’ Conservative-leaning stances that attracted Republicans during his first election could seem more moderate when compared to Rispone’s. Edwards also can’t count on the same wave of support from Republican voters who had become fatigued with their party as they had with Edwards’ predecessor, former Governor Bobby Jindal.

He’s also almost certain to face critiques from Republican officials who held onto seats in Statewide offices after the primary, including one of his harshest critics Jeff Landry. And, he can expect to fight off attacks from the major Republican competitor who failed to beat Rispone to secure the runoff, Ralph Abraham.

Rispone often compares himself to Trump as a self-made businessman:

The grandson of Sicilian immigrants, Rispone grew up with six people in a one-bathroom house near the plants in blue-collar north Baton Rouge. He and a brother, Jerry, built ISC Constructors to a firm with revenue of $364 million last year.

Though much more soft-spoken and polite than Trump, Rispone upended the Louisiana Republican establishment by running as an outsider willing to blow up the traditional politics and historical governing structure to get things done.

Late Saturday night, Ralph Abraham conceded and endorsed Rispone.

The run off election is November 16.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Planation (LSU Press). Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

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