BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It was fireworks in the final gubernatorial debate, which was broadcasted statewide by Nexstar, as Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter and Democrat State Representative John Bel Edwards held little back Monday night. Neither did the live audience which was overheard cheering and sneering in the background at several points.
Right out of the gate was a hot button issue: the Syrian refugees. Both men said they supported Governor Bobby Jindal's executive order blocking any future immigr ants. However, the debate format quickly derailed as the candidates attacked each other as the audience cheered.
"I think it's also significant that I said this way before the Paris bombings when the Syrian refugee issues first came up in September," said Vitter.
"Senator, you missed committee meetings where you could have done something about this in the Senate including the placement of refugees in Louisiana," responded Edwards.
In several heated exchanges, the candidates made jab after jab. Vitter attempted to link Edwards to President Barack Obama and Jindal. Edwards picked at Vitter's alleged sex scandal.
Political analyst Jim Engster said the very personal attacks are no surprise in a race that's largely about personality.
"John Bel Edwards had the most to lose tonight and it appears he came away relatively unscathed," said Engster. "But both candidates probably had moments that they'd say, maybe I went a little too far."
On the issues, the candidates stuck to a now familiar script. Both are pro-life, both support gun rights and oppose common core. Both also said they would not raise taxes to fill the holes in the budget.
When asked where they stood apart, Edwards spoke about expanding Medicaid. Vitter attacked Edwards record on pro-life issues.
"I have said for three years that I support the Medicaid expansion because it's the right thing to do to bring 1.6 billion of our tax dollars home to take care of the working poor in Louisiana," said Edwards.
"He would not commit to fighting in every way possible the defund Planned Parenthood to stop them from funding an abortion mill in New Orleans," said Vitter.
So will this final match up impact voters at the polls?
"I think voters are glad there are no more debates after this," said Engster. "How can you top this? It was bizarre with the studio audiences cheering and jeering and both candidates taking very personal jabs at the other."