Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards Ekes Out Win Against Trump Pick In Louisiana

The Associated Press has declared incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards the victor in the Louisiana gubernatorial race against Republic contender and Donald Trump pick Eddie Rispone. 

The tight race was widely seen seen as a referendum on Trump in a deeply red state. Bel Ewards won 50.6% of the vote to Rispone’s 49.4%.

Trump campaigned hard for Rispone, a Baton Rouge businessman. The president urged Louisiana residents in a tweet Saturday to get out and vote for the Republican because he will “get your taxes and auto insurance … way down.” At one of his his three recent campaign rallies in the state, Trump called Bel Edwards a “liberal Democrat who has sold you out.” Bel Edwards, who is actually a conservative Democrat, is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South.

Trump has tried to claim credit for Louisiana’s strengthening economy. Ironically, Bel Edwards pointed to the same economy and his role in it during his campaign. He also campaigned on closing a $2 billion budget deficit he inherited from Republican predecessor Bobby Jindal. 

Rispone had no political record to run on, and relied on his support for and from Trump to win. Trump won the state by 20 points in 2016. Rispone’s first two election ads featured the president, and included no footage of the candidate, according to The New York Times. When Rispone opened a rally earlier this week, he began by saying he had just spoken to Trump on the phone, eliciting a chant of “Trump! Trump! Trump!”

Bel Edwards was only 2 percentage points ahead in recent polling for the state race. But 52% of respondents to a Morning Consult poll said they approved of the job he is doing.

Early voting Saturday broke a non-presidential election record for the state, and the share of the ballots cast by Black voters climbed since the primary — which both appeared to be good signs for Bel Edwards, noted CNBC. State officials expected a 51% turnout Saturday, compared with just 40% for the last gubernatorial election in 2015, according to the Times.

The GOP flooded the state with millions of dollars in ad money, as well as visits from Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Vice President Mike Pence. Republicans managed to force a runoff after Bel Edwards failed to grab more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary last month. Rispone won 27% of the vote in the primary, but that plus the votes for third-term Republican Congressman Ralph Abraham kept Bel Edwards from winning outright.

Incumbent Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin went down to defeat earlier this month against his Democratic rival Andy Beshear, even though Trump campaigned for Bevin.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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