BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Voters elected John Bel Edwards to a second term as Louisiana’s Governor in a gubernatorial runoff election held Saturday, Nov. 16. Edwards was first elected in 2015, breaking through an eight-year lockout of Democratic governors across the Deep South.
While the fight to restore balance to the state’s finances defined the first half of Edwards’ tenure, the second half was defined by ongoing battles sprung in the wake of the Trump administration. Voters and politicians were suddenly reminded of Edwards’ conservative-leaning stance on polarizing issues, the most notable being signing a measure outlawing abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected without exceptions for pregnancies from rape or incest. Signing the law caused a rift between Edwards and his party, with many notable Democrats condemning Edwards.
Beyond the conflict with his fellow Democrats, Edwards’ faced considerable opposition from Republican officials during his term, including Sen. John Kennedy and General Attorney Jeff Landry who cultivated an image as the ideal Republican official by opposing Edwards on issues ranging from healthcare, state finances, the death penalty, and most notably LGBTQ protections. Both were rumored to be potential competitors for Edwards in the election, but eventually announced they decided not to enter the race.
However, challenges eventually came from Republican Congressman Ralph Abraham and self-proclaimed “political outsider” Edward L. “Eddie” Rispone. Abraham would be knocked out of the race in the Primary Election held Saturday, Oct. 12, while Rispone would go on to become the new face of a Republican offensive aimed at unseating Edwards.
With a clear challenger for Edwards, President Trump and other prominent Republicans rallied behind Rispone. But, Edwards used President Trump’s backing of Rispone to his own advantage, increasing his support among minority voters.
An exclusive WAFB news poll released just days ahead of the election revealed Edwards had a slim lead over Republican Eddie Rispone. The poll suggested the candidate who was able to bolster enough support among their constituents to turn out to vote would claim victory.
Complete but unofficial results from Louisiana’s Secretary of a State’s Office shows Edwards secured 51% of the vote over Rispone’s 49%. That amounted to 774,469 of the 1,508,597 votes.
FULL TRANSCRIPT: Eddie Rispone concession speech
“How sweet it is” exclaimed Edwards during his victory speech.
FULL TRANSCRIPT: John Bel Edwards’ victory speech
“You know, here in Louisiana, we march to the beat of our own second line. We are rich in culture, natural resources, and diversity. It’s what makes our great state. And tonight, the people of Louisiana have chosen to chart their own path,” said Edwards. “You know, I have never been more hopeful that Louisiana’s best day were ahead because we’ve proven what we can do when we put people over politics.”
He’d later layout pay equality, investment in education, and advocating to raise minimum wage among his priorities for the next four years.
“I told you four years ago I would not let you down. For the next four years, I promise to work just as hard for you,” said Edwards. “And from the bottom of my heart thank you. I love you. Now let’s get back to work together for the great state of Louisiana.”