Only Democratic Governor in Deep South Faces November Run-Off

Jesse Hamilton

(Bloomberg) -- Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards failed to garner more than half of votes in Saturday’s primary election, forcing him into a run-off with Republican candidate Eddie Rispone to be held Nov. 16.

Edwards won 47% of the vote, while Rispone, a Baton Rouge businessman and Republican donor making his first bid for public office, had 27%, according to a results portal on the Louisiana secretary of state’s website. In third place was Republican Representative Ralph Abraham, with 24%, who endorsed his GOP opponent after falling short in the primary.

President Donald Trump swooped in for an 11th-hour get-out-the-vote rally on Friday night to fire up Republicans. Because Louisiana has the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, the GOP coordinated a big push to ensure Edwards wouldn’t get more than 50% of the initial vote, which precipitates a run-off election.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both campaigned there on behalf of Republican candidates, Abraham and Rispone, without endorsing either in the primary. In Trump’s Lake Charles rally -- much of it spent attacking Democrat lawmakers and criticizing the efforts to impeach him -- he went after Edwards as an ally of his Democrat enemies.

Edwards, considered a centrist who often sides with conservatives, replaced Bobby Jindal as governor in 2016. The Army veteran and former state legislator easily beat U.S. Senator David Vitter -- a Republican plagued by scandal -- in a runoff in that election.

The Louisiana contest was another test of Trump’s ability to influence local elections. He’d already taken credit for helping a Republican win a special election for a North Carolina House seat last month.

Edwards faced an uphill battle in an election where other statewide offices, including those for lieutenant governor and attorney general, were won by Republicans in lopsided votes.

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