Governor forced into a runoff
Slightly lower turnout in the state’s urban centers, a late push from the Trump administration and a shift to partisan politics are the primary factors Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards has been forced into a runoff with political newcomer Eddie Rispone. Despite receiving high approval ratings across the state, the conservative Democrat’s reelection poll numbers hovered just over 50%. Seeing the slightest weakness, President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump, Jr visited and invigorated the Louisiana Republican base. This created a late surge in conservative turnout that combined with lower than expected African American turnout in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Alexandria dropped Edwards below 50%. Surprising is the partisan shift away from Edwards. His strongly pro gun and anti-abortion positions served him well in his first run for governor. Additionally Gov Edwards enjoyed strong support from Republicans during the legislative session, some of whom campaigned for him during the primary. Yet on election day, Edwards Republican support waned considerably.
In the upcoming runoff election, national party politics, led by the White House will pull out all the stops to defeat the only sitting Democratic governor in the south.
Jefferson Parish Politics
President Elect Cynthia Lee Sheng
Cynthia Lee Sheng completely dominated her race against former Parish President John Young. In the midst of the partisan politics of the gubernatorial election, Lee Sheng ran a broad-based campaign, reaching out to all segments of the community and soundly defeated Young to make history as the first female president in Jefferson Parish. While Young’s campaign failed to tell a compelling story about his vision for the parish, Ms. Lee Sheng promised to build coalitions and move Jefferson forward.
The gerrymandered District 3 of Jefferson Parish attracted a large and impressive field of candidates. In the end, former state Representative and Senator Derrick Shepherd proved second chances are possible as he is set to meet former District 3 Councilman Byron Lee. These two worked the hardest, spent the most and were the most recognizable names in the race. Each has the political infrastructure to mount a fierce runoff campaign. Former Councilman Byron Lee raised significantly more money for his campaign, while former Senator Shepherd has loaned his campaign considerable funds. With only one other candidate, hopefully the contestants will offer real solutions.
New Orleans Legislative Races
In another race filled with competent and qualified candidates, Matthew Willard surprised many by running first against the field. While pundits cite name recognition, people who have seen or heard Mr. Willard come away impressed. Obviously, his ability to connect and deliver a clear inspiring message resonated with the citizens of the district. Meanwhile, Eugene Green, the early favorite, squeaked into the runoff by 276 votes. The Harvard grad, public servant and small business owner faces the toughest task of every other runoff contender. Green must convince voters that his experience and record are more valuable than the new ideas and youthful exuberance of Willard. This will be a tall task as the other candidates in the race pushed the new ideas narrative and may represent the majority of votes cast. Green’s mission will be to convince those voters that he can represent them in the legislature.
Bouie vs Bagneris for Senate District 3
This battle of elected Representatives wanting to go to the Senate is forced into a runoff. Dr. Joe Bouie came close to winning outright, but the makeup of this oddly drawn district worked against him as partisan votes from the Republican portion of the district went entirely to the lone republican in the race. In the runoff, the winner will have to motivate these voters who will likely be at the polls to vote in the governor’s race. Bouie and Bagneris have probably already called their losing opponents seeking endorsements. The endorsement of Republican Kay Doody could determine the winner of this heavyweight battle.
Overall on a day of beautiful weather across the state, around 45% of eligible voters went to the polls..