Nov. 17 (UPI) — Democrat John Bel Edwards won his second term as Louisiana’s governor by 2 1/2 percentage points in a runoff against Republican Eddie Risponse on Saturday night.
With all precincts reporting, Edwards had a 40,000-vote lead — 774,469 to 734,128, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State. WWL-TV and CNN projected a victory for the Democrat about two hours after polls closed at 8 p.m.
Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the deep South. Last month, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear unseated Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in Kentucky. The Republicans will hold 26 of the governorships and the Democrats 24.
“Tonight, the people of Louisiana have chosen to chart their own path,” Edwards told a crowd of supporters in Baton Rouge. “You know, I have never been more hopeful that Louisiana’s best days are ahead, because we’ve proven what we can do when we put people over politics.”
Edwards, 53, was backed by urban ministers, organized labor and African-American politicians. He’s the only Democrat elected statewide.
Rispone, a 70-year-old businessman, was making his first run for public office. President Donald Trump campaigned for him twice in the past 10 days — Monroe and Bossier City — and he posted several messages on Twitter on Saturday. The president also campaigned against Edwards in the primary that attracted Democrats and Republicans.
In 2016, Trump won the state by 20 percentage points.
“Can we give President Trump a round of applause,” Rispone said in Baton Rouge. “That man loves America, and he loves Louisiana. He came down here three times specifically to try to help us.”
He told his supporters: “We have nothing to be ashamed of. We had over 700,000 people in Louisiana really want something better and something different.”
Edwards said he spoke with Rispone.
“We both agreed that the time for campaigning is over, and now our shared love for Louisiana is always more important than the partisan differences that sometimes divide us,” Edwards said. “And as for the President, God bless his heart.
In the jungle primary on Oct. 12, Edwards failed to win a majority of the votes with 47 percent. Rispone, was in second place with 27 percent, and close behind was U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, 65, with 24 percent. The remaining 3 percent of the votes were received by a Democrat, Republican and independent.
Edwards won the office four years ago against Republican David Vitter, who was embroiled in a prostitution scandal at the time. Edwards was the minority leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives before being elected governor in 2015.
Edwards has appealed to independents and Republicans with a conservative, pro-life and pro-guns stance, Michael Henderson, a Louisiana State University professor, told The Advocate.