BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana voters will settle the nation’s last 2019 gubernatorial contest Saturday, deciding whether to give the Deep South’s only Democratic governor a second term or replace him with a Republican businessman favored by President Donald Trump.
Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards faces a strong challenge from Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, who is hoping Trump’s coattails help him secure a victory in the crimson state where the president remains popular.
Also on the ballot is a rematch for Louisiana secretary of state, plus 29 legislative races that will determine if Republicans gain a House supermajority and the competition to fill a vacant state Supreme Court seat.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.
Edwards fell short of winning in the primary against five opponents, forcing him into a runoff against Rispone, who bested the other major Republican in the field after spending millions of his own money on the race.
The Democratic incumbent needs cross-party support to win reelection, with national Republican leaders working to prove Edwards’ 2015 win was a lucky break against a flawed GOP candidate with a prostitution scandal.
Edwards has tried to focus on state-specific issues. He’s running on the stabilization of state finances during his term, the first statewide teacher pay raise in a decade and the government-financed health insurance given to 460,000 people in his Medicaid expansion program.
Rispone said Edwards chased businesses and people away from Louisiana with the tax hikes he and the GOP-led Legislature used to balance the budget.
A longtime Republican political donor making his first bid for public office, Rispone described himself as a “conservative outsider” and businessman in the mold of Trump. He sought to nationalize the race, linking Edwards to national Democratic Party leaders who are unpopular in Louisiana and offering few specifics about his state policy platforms.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Louisiana’s other statewide runoff competition is for its chief elections official, the secretary of state.
Republican incumbent Kyle Ardoin is vying to hang onto the job against Democratic challenger Gwen Collins-Greenup in a rematch of the special election Ardoin won last year.
Ardoin was a top deputy to former Secretary of State Tom Schedler, a Republican who resigned last year amid sexual harassment allegations. Ardoin took over the position, then won the election to serve the final year of Schedler’s term.
Collins-Greenup has worked in notary and real estate businesses and is a former city court administrator and clerk of court employee. She’s considered a long-shot for victory since she’s done little fundraising.
STATE LEGISLATIVE SEATS
Twenty-four state House seats and five Senate seats remain to be filled. The outcome of the House competitions will resolve whether Republicans reach the veto-proof, two-thirds supermajority for the new term starting in January that the GOP has already won in the Senate.
Sixteen of the House competitions are between candidates of the same party. Of the remaining eight seats, Republicans are competing in seven — and need to win each one to reach the 70-member supermajority out of 105 seats.
All but one of the five Senate races on the runoff ballot are between members of the same party.
Securing two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate means if the GOP votes as a bloc, its members could override a gubernatorial veto and could make some budget and tax decisions without Democratic support.
LOUISIANA SUPREME COURT
New Orleans-area voters will choose a new Louisiana Supreme Court justice to fill a seat left vacant when former Justice Greg Guidry was confirmed to a lifetime federal judgeship.
The runoff is between Will Crain, a state appeals court judge from Madisonville, and Hans Liljeberg, a state appeals court judge from Metairie. Both men are Republicans.
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