Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) won a second term on Saturday, overcoming a wealthy Republican challenger in a state that has increasingly leaned to the right in recent years.
With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Edwards led businessman Eddie Rispone (R) by a 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent margin. The Associated Press projected Edwards would hold on.
Edwards campaigned on his accomplishments over the course of his first four years in office, when he expanded Medicaid to cover low-income residents, broke a budget deadlock with the state legislature and signed teacher pay raises into law.
Rispone tried to nationalize the contest in a state where President TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE remains broadly popular. He compared Edwards to national Democrats such as Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse leaders unveil bill to boost chip industry, science competitiveness with China Pelosi says she will run for reelection in 2022 Hoyer says 'significant' version of Build Back Better will pass this year MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezNew Mexico Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case Warner tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case Hispanics sour on Biden and Democrats' agenda as midterms loom MORE (D-N.Y.) even though Edwards is pro-life and supports gun ownership rights.
But voters tend to see state-level races through a different lens than federal contests. Edwards is one of a handful of governors representing a state their party's presidential candidate will not win — Democrats run Kansas and Montana, while Republicans govern Massachusetts, Maryland and Vermont.
Edwards, who came up a little more than 3 points short of winning reelection outright in the first round of voting in October, focused much of his campaign on turning out his voters. Early voting results showed that Democratic voters, and black voters in particular, made up a much larger percentage of the electorate in the runoff than they did in the first round of voting. Polls showed Edwards collecting north of 90 percent of the African American vote, while Rispone was winning about two-thirds of the white vote.
Both Democrats and Republicans poured millions of dollars into the race. The Democratic Governors Association spent about $2.7 million on television spots during the runoff, while the Republican Governors Association spent $2.2 million.
Rispone dropped at least $12 million of his own money into his race, and the Republican National Committee raced a late $1 million to the contest to help bolster turnout on Rispone's behalf.
Saturday's election caps off a year in which Democrats can claim political momentum. While Republicans once hoped to win all three governorships up for election this year, they ended up with only one, in Mississippi, and an incumbent who went down to defeat in Kentucky. Democrats also claimed control of Virginia's House of Delegates and state Senate, giving the party total control of state government there for the first time in a quarter-century.
And though his approval rating remains strong, Trump may feel a sting too: He campaigned with Rispone three times, including a last-minute rally this week in a Republican-heavy area in the northwest corner of the state. It is the second time in as many weeks that Trump has appeared on behalf of a candidate in a state he won by 20 points and could not drag that candidate first over the finish line.
Conscious of Trump’s standing in the state, Edwards promoted his own working relationship with the president. After the White House touted Louisiana job growth since President Trump took office, Edwards’s campaign agreed.
“Louisiana’s economy is moving in the right direction, and growing stronger every day. But don’t take Gov. Edwards’s word for it. The White House agrees,” Edwards campaign manager Richard Carbo said last week.