The only incumbent governor of a southern state, John Bel Edwards, was locked in a down-to-the-wire re-election battle in Louisiana on Saturday, holding a lead of fewer than 20,000 votes over Republican businessman Eddie Rispone with 96 percent of precincts reporting. But shortly before 10 p.m. local time, The Associated Press called the race for Edwards, posting the call via Twitter.
The Louisiana Secretary of State posted continually updated live election results on Saturday. With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Edwards held a lead of 19,306 votes. That was 51 percent, to 49 for Rispone.
Edwards, 53, failed to top 50 percent in the first governor’s election last month, forcing a runoff vote against Rispone, 70. The result was the second time in 11 days that Trump’s support failed to deliver for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in the south. In Kentucky elections on November 5, Democrat Andy Beshear edged incumbent GOP Governor Matt Bevin, despite Trump’s strong support for Bevin.
Trump also posted messages on Twitter urging Louisiana voters to go to the polls and cast ballots for Rispone, who placed second in the October voting.
The October vote was a so-called “jungle” primary, in which all candidates compete in a single election. If one candidate tops 50 percent, that candidate wins. But if no candidate achieves a majority, the top two meet in a runoff. That is exactly what happened in Louisiana, with Edwards finishing first in the primary — but with only 47 percent of the vote.
Trump’s support was seen as crucial for Rispone. Louisiana voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by 20 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election. But as experts had predicted, Rispone’s support came mostly from Louisiana’s rural areas, while Edwards appears to have won his second term largely thanks to support in urban areas, such as Baton Rouge, according to a Washington Post report.
Pre-election polls showed the race nearly tied heading into Saturday’s voting.
Though Edwards is considered a conservative Democrat, he has pushed for such Democratic initiatives as expanding Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, allowing nearly a half-million residents to obtain health coverage, according to the Post report. Edwards has also backed teacher pay raises. Louisiana’s unemployment level dropped to its lowest point in more than 10 years under Edwards, as well.
Edwards will now serve a second term. In 2015, he easily defeated former Republican United States Senator David Vitter, to succeed outgoing GOP governor Bobby Jindal.