Democrats hold on to Louisiana governor’s seat despite Trump | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

BATON ROUGE, La. >> Gov. John Bel Edwards has stunned again, narrowly winning a second term today as the Deep South’s only and handing Donald another gubernatorial loss this year.

In the heart of Trump country, the moderate Edwards cobbled together enough cross-party with his focus on , state-specific issues to defeat Rispone.

Coming after a defeat in the ’s and sizable losses in ’s legislative races, the Louisiana result seems certain to rattle Republicans as they into the 2020 presidential . Trump fought to return the seat to the , making three trips to Louisiana to rally against Edwards.

In a victory rally of his own late today, Edwards thanked supporters who chanted the familiar Louisiana refrain, “Who dat!” and he declared, “How sweet it is!”

He added, “And as for the , bless his heart” — a phrase often used by genteel Southerners to politely deprecate someone.

Trump had made the between Edwards and Rispone a of his own popularity and political prowess heading into the 2020 presidential race. Today Trump went on in a vigorous plug for Rispone.

The president’s intense attention motivated not only Republicans, but also powered a surge in anti-Trump and voter turnout that helped Edwards.

who argue that nominating a moderate is the best approach to beat Trump are certain to point to Louisiana’s race as bolstering their case. Edwards, a graduate, opposes gun restrictions, signed one of the nation’s strictest bans and dismissed the effort as a distraction.

Still, while Rispone’s loss raises questions about the strength of Trump’s coattails, its relevance to his reelection are less clear. Louisiana is expected to easily back Trump year, and Edwards’ views in many ways are out of with his own party.

In the final days as polls showed Edwards with momentum, national Republicans beefed up assistance for Rispone. That wasn’t enough to boost the GOP contender, who wasn’t among the top-tier candidates Republican leaders hoped would challenge Edwards as they sought to prove that the Democrat’s longshot victory in 2015 was a fluke.

He had ties to unpopular former Gov. Bobby Jindal and offered few details about his . Edwards also proved to be a formidable candidate, with a record of achievements.

Working with the majority-Republican Legislature, Edwards stabilized state finances with a package of increases, ending the deficit-riddled years of Jindal. paid for investments in colleges and the statewide raise in a decade.

Edwards expanded Louisiana’s Medicaid program, lowering the state’s uninsured rate the national average. A bipartisan criminal sentencing rewrite he championed ended Louisiana’s tenure as the nation’s top jailer.

Rispone, the 70-year- owner of a Baton Rouge contracting , hitched his entire candidacy to Trump, introducing himself to voters in that focused on support for the president in a state Trump won by 20 percentage points.

But the 53-year-old Edwards, a former state lawmaker and former Ranger from rural Tangipahoa Parish, reminded voters that he’s a Louisiana Democrat, with political views that sometimes don’t his party’s leaders.

“They talk about I’m some sort of a radical . The of Louisiana know better than that. squarely in the middle of the political spectrum,” Edwards said. “That hasn’t changed, and that’s we’ve been governing.”

Rispone framed himself in the mold of Trump, describing himself as a “conservative outsider” whose acumen would solve the state’s problems.

“We want Louisiana to be No. 1 in the South when it comes to and . We have to do something different,” Rispone said. “We can do for Louisiana what President Trump has done for the nation.”

Rispone poured more than $12 million of his own money into the race. But he had trouble drawing some of the primary vote that went to Republican . Ralph Abraham, after harshly attacking Abraham in ads as he sought to reach the runoff.

Rispone also avoided many traditional public attended by Louisiana gubernatorial candidates and sidestepped questions about his plans when taking office. He promised , without saying where he’d shrink spending, and he pledged a constitutional convention, without detailing what he wanted to rewrite.

Both parties spent millions on attack ads and get-out-the-vote , on top of at least $36 million spent by candidates.

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