Governor's election isn't over

EDWARDS, RISPONE — Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, left, and Republican businessman Eddie Rispone are in Louisiana's Nov. 16 gubernatorial runoff.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards led Saturday’s primary with 47 percent of the vote, but the Louisiana Republican Party believes it’s all over. Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, who got 27 percent of the vote, will be the GOP candidate in the Nov.16 runoff with Edwards, and his state party has already handed Rispone the victory.

“Eddie will do for Louisiana what President Trump has done for America,” party chairman Louis Gurvich said. The slogan comes as no surprise since the state GOP gave President Trump all the credit for keeping Edwards below the winning margin he needed. However, whether Trump made the difference will never be known. Edwards got exactly the percentage of votes all the polls said he would.

The president did what he came to Lake Charles to do, and that was to make any wild allegations he wanted about Edwards and there was no time to dispute them.

Perhaps his wildest exaggeration was to say Edwards is going to do away with the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The governor’s staunch support of the Second Amendment has been well established, just as firmly as his support for some of the toughest anti-abortion legislation ever enacted in this country. It is also clear to most Americans that even though it is under constant attack, Edwards can’t change the Second Amendment and it is in no real danger.

The impeachment debates in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives have nothing to do with Louisiana because most of its congressmen are staunch supporters of President Trump. Nevertheless, it’s easy for critics to try and link all Democrats to events in Washington, and Trump took a cheap shot at Edwards by doing just that.

Trump and Edwards have met nearly a dozen times on issues about which they agree, and they have had close ties. Unfortunately, Trump was quick to sever those ties when he was given an opportunity to enhance his own political fortunes and to put his political party before friendships.

The president is expected to be back in the state before the general election, and he may have more time to make a difference in the outcome. However, as American baseball legend Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

The same poll that had Edwards at 46 percent before the election also showed him beating Rispone 52 percent to 36 percent if the two of them were in the runoff. Despite that edge, Edwards knows he’s in for a tough runoff. The two leading Republicans together chalked up 59,493 more votes than the 625,960 the governor received.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, came in third Saturday with 24 percent of the vote and immediately threw his support to Rispone. How many of those voters might prefer Edwards to Rispone remains to be seen. You can be sure a number of Abraham’s supporters aren’t going to forget that Rispone’s attacks on their candidate probably cost Abraham the runoff spot.

The Edwards campaign said the history of the open primary election system shows that statewide candidates who receive 45 percent or more of the vote in the primary are 6-0 in the runoff. Those who led their opponent by 15 percent or more in the primary are 7-0 in the runoff.

The realities we talked about before the primary vote haven’t changed. Edwards, with help from half of the Republican members of the state House over the last four years, brought budget stability back to state government that was missing for nearly a decade. Budget cuts that crippled many state services are being restored. All levels of education are on the road to recovery, again because of bipartisan work by Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature.

Surpluses are making it possible to pay down state debt and restore adequate funding to the state’s rainy day fund. Those funds will also help restore college and university buildings that have been neglected far too long.

The state’s overall economy is strong, and areas such as ours here in Southwest Louisiana have experienced unprecedented growth. Future industrial and business development is expected to continue. Unemployment at 4.3 percent is lower than it has been in 11 years and future job prospects are much brighter.

Despite the gains, Republican leaders will continue to express doom and gloom without having to worry about facts to prove their claims. GOP campaign money is expected to come in from all across the country.

The 45.3 percent voter turnout for the governor’s election is being praised, and it was better than it has been recently. However, it is still nothing to brag about. The voter turnout in 1983 when Edwin W. Edwards won an unprecedented third term as governor was 75.7 percent.

The major beneficiaries of the last four years have been those who work in all levels of education and others who have health care coverage for the first time in their lives.

Unlike the deadlock in Congress, none of it would have happened without the cooperation of the governor and Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature. A bigger voter turnout will help the good times under Edwards continue.

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