It’s how the headlines should have read on Sunday morning. Or maybe “PEOPLE FINALLY VOTING IN LOUISIANA” considering we had a massive turnout of over 50% of all eligible voters in the run-off this past Saturday. Due to this, we have re-elected a Democrat Governor for the first time in over 40 years. And nationally this year, Governor Edwards is the second gubernatorial victory for Democrats in a red state this month. Despite Trump’s visits, Democrats prevailed. At 7 p.m. on Saturday though, with Rispone at 54%, I was murmuring that you could spend enough on a campaign for people to overlook their own common sense. But thankfully, by 9 p.m., I realized that I was wrong.
Governor Edwards victory came despite President Donald Trump traveling to the state twice over the final 11 days of the race to campaign for Rispone, a businessman who mostly self-funded his campaign. The Governor’s comments on Trump’s visits, which can only truly be appreciated by a deep southerner, was “God bless his heart”. It probably produced the widest smiles of the night for those who oppose the President. Do you think someone had to explain to Trump what “God bless his heart” in the deep South really means? I sure hope they did.
Money and Trump did not produce the outcome they desired. The five-week sprint to the general election was very ugly and expensive. According to Advertising Analytics, Rispone’scampaign spent nearly $5 million since the primary and was bolstered by a number of Republican outside groups that brought overall GOP ad spending to over $10 million. Edwards’ reelection campaign spent $4.6 million — and, including outside groups, the effort to reelect him spent over $9 million. This was a $45 Million race for the Governor’s seat.
Amazing what happens when people actually show up to vote. Orleans Parish, which dramatically under performed for the October Primary, pushed Edwards past 50% along with a higher number of voters in Baton Rouge. The Edwards campaign emphasized turning out black voters. Scott Arceneaux, a veteran Democratic strategist, joined the campaign in recent weeks to help with get-out-the-vote efforts. And it was dramatically effective accounting for 31 percent of early ballots, up from 25 percent in the early-voting period for the primary. The message here? We get out the vote and anything is possible. This renews my belief that Louisiana has a real future.
I say this because one of the few details from the Risponecampaign was wanting a Constitutional Convention. This made many people panic, including myself. Watching what laws and tax credits gets passed in the name of big business is a big sign where this was headed. By electing Edwards, we avoided a complete rewrite of our State’s constitution which would have been dictated by the oil and gas industry, and ultra-conservativeultra-evangelical ideals, with a massive dose of misplaced nostalgia. Not only would this bankrupt this state, it would set it on a faster course of educated mass-exodus. Companies would leave this state in droves. New Orleans would turn from a gem to “remember when New Orleans was unique and everyone was accepted?”
So with this, I congratulate John Bel Edwards, but even more, I congratulate all the Democrats who voted – and the 21% of Republicans who voted for him. You saved us in more ways than one. Thank you.
Jim Francis is a former Congressional Candidate who ran against Steve Scalise in Louisiana’s first congressional district.