Louisiana's Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, holds a comfortable lead over his Republican challengers but has not yet secured a threshold that would allow him to avoid a runoff, according to a new poll.
The survey, published Wednesday by JMC Analytics and Polling, found Bel Edwards ahead in the race with 38 percent of the vote, leading his closest competitor in October's primary election, Rep. Ralph Abraham (R), by 15 percentage points.
Businessman Eddie Rispone (R) registered support from 7 percent of voters in the poll, while 32 percent remain undecided.
Bel Edwards has room to grow, especially among African American voters, fully a quarter of whom say they are undecided. Among all African American voters, 71 percent back Bel Edwards, and the two Republicans split just 5 percent of the vote. About a third of white voters back Abraham, a quarter back Bel Edwards and more than a third remain undecided.
Bel Edwards polls best in New Orleans, Lake Charles and Baton Rouge, the state’s three bastions of Democratic voters. Abraham polls best in Alexandria, his home base and the region where Bel Edwards struggles the most.
With roughly one-third of all Louisiana voters undecided, Bel Edwards's position could shift a great deal by October. Under state law, Bel Edwards will face his challengers in an open primary on Oct. 12, where he needs to secure 50 percent of the vote to avoid a November runoff with the second-place finisher.
In runoff scenarios tabulated by JMC Analytics and Polling, Bel Edwards led both of his challengers, winning 40 percent of the vote in a hypothetical matchup against Abraham and 41 percent against Rispone.
Bel Edwards, if reelected, would remain the South's only Democratic governor following losses last year by both Andrew Gillum (D) and Stacey Abrams (D) in Florida and Georgia, respectively.
He had more than $10.2 million in the bank at the beginning of April, his campaign said then. Rispone, a wealthy businessman making his first run for public office, had $10.4 million on hand, most of it from his own checkbook. Abraham had about $1 million in the bank after pulling in $793,000 in the first quarter of the year.
The new poll, commissioned by Baton Rouge communications firm Harris, Deville & Associates, surveyed 650 Louisiana voters with a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.
Louisiana is one of three states that will elect a new governor this year. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is running for reelection amid his own polling woes. Mississippi voters will elect a new governor, as Gov. Phil Bryant (R) faces term limits.
President TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE remains popular in Louisiana, with 54 percent of voters telling pollsters that they approve of the job he has done in office, compared to 37 percent who disapprove.
Reid Wilson contributed to this report, which was updated at 12:14 p.m.