LAFAYETTE, La. (WAFB) - The three leading candidates for governor sparred over the economy, transportation, and the president during Thursday’s (Sept. 26) debate at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) moderators drilled the candidates on policy for the first half of the debate, but each was short on specifics in their responses. Drama cut through political rhetoric midway when candidates were allowed to question each other.
Eddie Rispone hammered U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham for disavowing the president in 2016 after tapes of Trump bragging about sexual harassment surfaced.
“You know the target that we should be working on is the one standing to your left,” Abraham retorted, making reference to Gov. John Bel Edwards. “When you stand up here and tell blatant lies to the people of Louisiana, you’re the politician, not me.”
Edwards likened both of his challengers to his predecessor, Governor Bobby Jindal.
“Bobby Jindal is not running for governor,” Rispone said. “I’m running for governor. I’m an outsider and conservative.”
Thursday’s debate marked the first time Abraham acknowledged Rispone, unprompted, during a debate or forum.
Neither Republican would overturn Medicaid expansion, though each has been a frequent critic of the governor’s management of the program. Abraham and Rispone each said they want to divert salary and benefit money in the transportation trust fund to construction.
Edwards frequently reminded voters he converted a $2 billion budget deficit into a surplus estimated to be worth $500 million. The legislature raised sales taxes in order to fill the budget hole, however.
Rispone said he will push for a constitutional convention. Abraham said he will consider rewriting the state’s guiding document through a convention, but that he does not believe it will be entirely necessary to complete tax reform.
Abraham was the only candidate to come out strongly in favor of the death penalty. Rispone said his faith prevents him from supporting executions. Edwards has yet to take a clear side on the issue.
WAFB and our sister stations across the state will air the final gubernatorial debate Wednesday, Oct. 9. Voters can see that one live at 7 p.m. that evening on WAFB.