Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, the Republican candidate who is trying to defeat Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in the Nov. 16 Louisiana runoff, continues to evade important state issues. Business and industry officials who have given their full-fledged support to Rispone had to be surprised when their handpicked candidate didn’t show up at what was supposed to be a statewide forum held by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.
Edwards, who has grabbed every opportunity to be heard, was there and faced some tough questions as he has done throughout the campaign. The governor also seized the opportunity to accurately size up Rispone’s campaign.
“Why are we in front of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber — these are business people in Baton Rouge … without the Baton Rouge-area business candidate in this room, taking part in this forum?” Edwards asked.
“I understand his calendar didn’t support this particular event. I’m just going to tell you it was intentional, and speaks volumes that he doesn’t have a vision to share about what this state ought to look like moving forward.”
While we are on the subject of business and industry interests, it has to be noted that columnist Stephanie Riegel, in the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report last week, shot holes in the criticism of Edwards’ economic record by those interests and Republicans.
“But to try to make an economic argument against the governor, whose fiscal restraint and political pragmatism bailed Louisiana out of a deep hole and set it on a sustainable path for the first time since, maybe, Gov. Mike Foster’s administration, is simply untrue,” Riegel said.
“It’s galling to think back on (Bobby) Jindal’s record and just how bad it really was…” Riegel said the former governor “screwed up the state’s budget” and so many aspects of state government in his effort to seek the presidency.
Riegel cleared the air on Edwards’ tax record, which has been blown all out of proportion. The state general fund budget, which is funded by state taxpayer dollars, has grown by only 2 percent a year under Edwards.
The state general fund has gone from $9 billion in fiscal year 2015-16 when he took office to only $9.7 billion in fiscal year 2019-20. That is an increase of only $700 million over four years, not the $7 billion tossed around continuously by his critics.
Riegel explained why the governor’s critics have put out so much bad, unfounded information during this campaign.
“They care about just one thing: Defeating a Democrat,” she added.
Even Sam Hanna Jr. with The Ouachita Citizen, who has been sympathetic to Republican candidates throughout the gubernatorial campaign, expressed some concerns about Rispone’s support of a state constitutional convention, his only major commitment.
Hanna wants to know if Rispone’s convention would tamper or possibly do away with the homestead exemption that keeps property taxes low in Louisiana. He also asks whether Rispone would support abolishing the Minimum Foundation Program that funds public education.
Louisiana voters approved a state constitutional amendment some years back that Hanna said strengthened gun owner rights, and Hanna wants to know Rispone’s views on that one.
Hanna ended his political column saying what many Louisiana voters have been saying since Rispone’s campaign started.
“I have no idea where Rispone stands on any of it. And that’s the point. He needs to speak up,” Hanna concluded.
Edwards and Rispone will be at the Wednesday debate sponsored by Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the Council for A Better Louisiana. There could be one or two more debates, but The Advocate reported that Rispone’s campaign said this one is the only debate in which he will participate.
Critics of Edwards have failed throughout this campaign to factually prove their attacks on the governor’s record. Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry was in Lake Charles Friday and — once again, as he has for the last four years — used false information about the governor’s support of criminal justice reforms.
Political advertisements on the subject had to be pulled because they were factually incorrect. One political action committee (PAC) attack on Rispone calls him “phony Rispone.” Landry was in town last week spreading more “phony baloney.”
Indications are President Trump will be back in Louisiana trying to boost Rispone’s runoff chances. He may be in Mississippi and Kentucky that are also holding governor elections.
A Politico reporter wrote, “Trump badly needs a boost right now, and the White House sees the elections in the conservative states as the best near-term hope of achieving it …”
Trump is always quick to seize any opportunity to tell or tweet his story. Wherever he goes, his No. 1 goal is to win again in 2020. Rispone is just an afterthought.
Riegel of the Business Report offered some solid advice to voters. She said there will be much well funded disinformation spread between now and Nov. 16 and they shouldn’t let party loyalty blind them to the truth.