‘West Point’ remarks and backlash show deepening divides in La. governor’s race

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — The battle lines are getting bolder, as Louisiana voters begin deciding who they want to spend the next four years as governor.

On Monday, Republican challenger Eddie Rispone defended comments he made Friday about Gov. John Bel Edwards. Rispone had told an Alexandria radio station that the governor “hurt the reputation of West Point” by becoming a lawyer after leaving the U.S. Army.

“I guess to be politically correct, I should not have brought that up,” Rispone told reporters Monday. “But two people came in and said they’re embarrassed about what he would do to stay in power.”

Joshua Darr, an associate professor of political communication at LSU’s Manship School, suggests the timing of Rispone’s remarks may encourage turnout. Early voting began Saturday and continues through Saturday, Nov. 9.


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“I can’t get inside their heads to see whether it was strategically what they wanted to do, to have a three-day news cycle about Governor Edwards’ service in West Point, but it is what happened,” Darr said. “Assuming it was a deliberate comment by Rispone to make waves, it seems to have worked.”

The governor’s campaign doubled down in a statement Monday.

“The military veterans who have stepped up to defend Gov. Edwards represent both political parties, including tea party conservatives,” Edwards campaign spokesman Eric Holl said. “Their record of service is why they know just how disgusting Eddie’s attack was.”

Rispone maintains the backlash to his remarks signals a misunderstanding.

“[Gov. Edwards] flipped this around and made it a veterans deal,” Rispone said. “It’s a liberal, tax-and-spend politician who will do anything to stay in power.”

Darr suggests that with the Nov. 16 Election Day still roughly two weeks away, observers could see more eruptions in the governor’s race.

“We don’t really know yet how that’s going to play out, but it was definitely the first time something like that has happened in this campaign.”

Poll figures show a tight margin between Edwards and Rispone. Last week’s Nexstar/JMC Analytics poll shows the incumbent Democrat just two points ahead of the Baton Rouge-based Republican contractor.

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