Now is time to put state first

BITTER CAMPAIGN — The Louisiana gubernatorial campaign that saw Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards win re-election experienced bitter and slanted TV commercials that were nothing but fiction tinged with facts designed to destroy candidates' character.

Louisiana voters on Saturday ended one of the bitterest gubernatorial campaigns in recent state history. Outside interests flooded the state with untold millions of dollars that tried to destroy the characters of three good men.

The election outcome wasn’t known when this was written, but that isn’t the most important thing voters should remember about this election. They should remember that much of what they heard during the campaign was misinformation tinged with some facts that were designed to deceive.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has an outstanding military record, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, is a good Catholic and family man and a successful state legislator and governor who has helped put the state on a sound financial footing.

Republican Eddie Rispone is a successful Baton Rouge businessman who established himself as a man who got where he is today from humble beginnings. He, too, is a good Catholic and family man whose political experience has been mostly as a campaign contributor to other individuals and causes.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, is serving his third term representing the 5th Congressional District, is a medical doctor, a business owner and certified flight instructor and also a good family man. Abraham has served with the Army National Guard and is an advocate for those who serve in the country’s military.

Those excellent backgrounds were trashed during the campaign, and The Advocate in a Saturday editorial had some sound advice for voters.

“Amid all the hoopla of the election, we hope that voters will think about their choices and the candidates themselves,” the newspaper said. “That’s difficult with millions of dollars flooding into the state from outside groups, including some ‘dark money’ outfits that exploit a legal loophole allowing them to keep their funders secret.

“Like many others, we find it distasteful that negative campaigning has become so much the norm…”

Sadly, this has been primarily a political party election rather than one based on people — the three major candidates. Republican and Democratic national parties wanted to make sure their candidate won, whoever that might be.

President Trump made three trips to Louisiana in support of Rispone’s campaign that was designed to help the Republican candidate and to bolster the president’s 2020 re-election campaign. That support was expected early on since Rispone had closely tied his campaign to the president from the beginning.

What wasn’t expected was to hear Trump incorrectly say that Edwards was pro-abortion and against the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The governor signed one of the toughest anti-abortion laws in the nation and his support of gun rights is legendary. Both issues played a major role in helping him win the governor’s election in 2015.

Trump also said Edwards destroyed the state’s economy at the same time his White House was tweeting the state’s economy was going great.

Consider the headlines we saw during the campaign: “A campaign of attacks, short on the truth.” “Campaigns increase bitter attacks.” “Ad pulled in governor’s race after contract claim proven false.” “Governor’s race is a reality check on the role of partisanship.” “Race has evolved into referendum on Trump.”

A New Orleans political group sponsored a radio ad comparing Rispone to white supremacist David Duke, and Edwards was unfairly blamed. The governor said he had no knowledge of the ad, didn’t pay for it and it was pulled at his request.

The Louisiana Republican Party responded to that ad by calling Edwards’ family racist because his ancestors owned slaves. The Advocate called that “increasingly bitter tactics, involving racial charges and countercharges rarely made in such stark terms in modern Louisiana elections…”

Rispone said Edwards hurt the reputation of West Point by becoming a trial lawyer who “will say or do anything to stay in power.” The comments drew immediate reaction from fellow West Point graduates. Rispone also launched anti-Abraham commercials that many believe kept Abraham out of the runoff.

Another ad that was pulled claimed a military buddy of Edwards landed a contract worth up to $65 million, even though the contract was never awarded.

The Advocate said the tenor of the campaign before Trump arrived “had been somewhat moribund (lacking vitality)” as the candidates “carefully avoided saying anything that would alienate a segment necessary in their formula for victory.”

“Since then,” the newspaper said, “Louisiana has seen a debate that resembled a food fight, a candidate dissing another’s West Point credentials, supporters of each candidate playing the race card and increasingly nasty television commercials.”

Efforts were also made to try and link Edwards to the Democrats in the U.S. House who are trying to impeach Trump. Edwards said the critics weren’t talking about him but about “some generic Democrat that’s in your mind.” The governor noted he had worked with the president on some issues and Republicans in the Legislature to restore the state’s financial stability.

The important thing now is for the winner and loser to put all of this bitterness and animosity behind them and work together to make Louisiana an even better place to live and work.

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