NEW ORLEANS (CN) — Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards will face eight challengers at the polling booths in October in what is expected to be the state’s most expensive governor’s race ever.
Two days of open qualifying in which candidates signed up for the race ended Thursday without surprises: Incumbent Edwards, the lone Democratic governor in the Deep South, will face two major Republican challengers, both Trump supporters, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham of Alto, La., and millionaire contractor Eddie Rispone, of Baton Rouge, along with a handful of others.
Edwards is running on the platform that he has been financially good for the state, which went into deep debt during the tenure of his predecessor, Republican Bobby Jindal, whose popularity plummeted before he left office.
“We can’t talk about where the state of Louisiana is under Gov. Edwards without talking about where we were under Jindal when this administration took over,” Edwards’ campaign spokesman Eric Holl told the New Orleans Advocate newspaper. “Louisiana doesn’t want to go back.”
Edwards’ campaign points to Abraham and Rispone as Jindal backers. Both candidates’ campaigns are clear about their support of Trump.
Rispone, who loaned his own campaign $10 million, is handing out “I stand with Trump” stickers and took out a newspaper ad saying “Donald Trump is right” on immigration.
Abraham has drawn endorsements from Republican officials around the state but lacks the campaign financing of Edwards and Rispone.
Louisiana is set to become a major focus for both parties during the election. The Republican Governors Association, based in Washington, D.C., has called Louisiana a “top pick-up opportunity for Republicans” and already has spent more than $1 million on the Louisiana race. It is expected to spend several million more before the race is over.
“With the state’s solid red hue combined with President Trump’s 20-point victory in 2016, Gov. Edwards will certainly face a competitive race no matter who Republicans decide to nominate,” Republican Governors Association spokesman Jon Thompson told BallotPedia. Political analyst Bernie Pinosonat told the WWL Newsroom radio station: “This is an important race for Republicans nationally. When you talk about reappointment, when you talk about having control of the state, the governor is very powerful in Louisiana. Having a Democrat in Louisiana is great for Democrats.
“We have two candidates who are going to spend at least $25 million. Abraham, he could end up spending three or four million. Then could we have another $10 million spent by political PACS? Yeah, that’s easily possible,” Pinosonat said.
Democratic Governors Association spokesman Jaren Leopold said: “Governor Edwards is in a strong position for re-election and is one of the most popular governors in America for a reason: He’s working across party lines to get things done for Louisianans.”
Candidates this week also registered to challenge all of Louisiana’s elected Republican officials.
Louisiana will hold the primary election for governor on Oct. 12, 2019. A candidate will win upon receiving 50 percent plus one of that vote. If none receives more than 50 percent, a general election between the top two vote-getters will be held Nov. 16.
Six other candidates with little or no financial backing also entered the governor’s race this week. Among them is Gary Landrieu, 61, of Metairie, an Independent, the cousin of former Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Landrieu, who has run unsuccessfully for several offices, was booked with aggravated battery in 2012 after he grabbed a woman standing outside his truck in the French Quarter by the hair and drove several feet, dragging her.
“If you continue to hang around these kind of people you’re going to be trash,” Landrieu told the woman as he dragged her, according to the police account. Five days before, he had lost a bid for a U.S. House seat. Neither of his Landrieu cousins endorsed him in that race.
After joining the governor’s race Wednesday, Landrieu told reporters he had a dispute with the secretary of state’s office and intends to sue because the office won’t allow his name to appear on the ballot as Gary “Go Gary” Landrieu.