DEBATE NIGHT: Candidates for La. governor prepare for public TV stage

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) — After weeks of recorded ads running the runoff media game, Louisiana’s gubernatorial candidates will take on a more improvised venture: live TV.

Louisiana Public Broadcasting will host a debate between Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican challenger Eddie Rispone at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The showdown will mark the lone head-to-head event between the two contenders, a factor sure to raise the stakes.

“We’re not just talking about tonight,” political strategist Mary-Patricia Wray told in an interview Wednesday. “There’s going to be coverage of this debate for a couple of days afterwards.”

Efforts to hold additional debates and forums between Edwards and Rispone have dissolved, with Rispone declining invites.

But even with just one debate, Wray suggested campaigns will put the clips it produces to use — especially in future advertisements, as the hopefuls eye fodder against their respective opponents.

“Getting through this unscathed, making sure you don’t make a faux pas or hand your candidate any tool to bludgeon you with when it’s over is really the goal,” she said.

A Nexstar/JMC Analytics poll shows that all but 6 percent of likely voters have picked their candidate. But a tight 48-to-46 percent margin between Edwards and Rispone shows that changing just a few minds can sway the outcome.

“There’s still a chance to persuade people to change their mind,” Wray said. “It’s never too late, and I know both of these men are the kinds of people who never give up.”

Election Day is Nov. 16, but voters need not wait that long to cast ballots for governor. Early voting starts Saturday, Nov. 2 and runs through Saturday, Nov. 9.

Both the Edwards and Rispone campaigns released pre-debate statements Wednesday afternoon.

Edwards spokesman Eric Holl: “Tonight Louisianans will get to hear a clear vision for the future from Gov. Edwards, with more investments in education, more job creation, and more opportunity for all Louisianans. Phony Rispone, on the other hand, will duck every question. This will be Eddie’s only appearance with Gov. Edwards in the runoff, because Eddie doesn’t want Louisiana to hear about his plans to repeal Medicaid expansion and take our state back to record deficits and education cuts.”

Rispone spokeswoman Ruth Wisher: “Eddie looks forward to drawing a clear contrast between himself, a pro-Trump, conservative outsider and businessman and Edwards, a liberal, tax and spend, trial lawyer, career politician. While Edwards will try to hide his failed liberal record, Eddie will share his vision on how he can turn our state around and finally do for Louisiana what President Trump has done for the nation.”

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