Incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) and businessman Eddie Rispone (R) advanced from Louisiana’s primary election Saturday as the top two finishers. Edwards received 46% of the vote and Rispone received 27% with 92% of precincts reporting. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R) was third with 24% of the vote. The general election will be held November 16.
Louisiana uses what’s known as a blanket primary, where all candidates in any race appear on the ballot—regardless of party. A candidate can win the election outright by receiving more than 50 percent of the primary vote. Otherwise, the top two finishers advance to a general election. Six candidates ran in the gubernatorial primary.
Edwards has campaigned on what he considers the accomplishments of his administration, including the state’s budget going from a deficit to a surplus, teacher pay raises, and Medicaid expansion. Rispone has emphasized his background as a businessman, referring to himself as a conservative outsider and job creator. He has criticized Edwards’ tenure, saying the state’s economy ranks last in the nation.
Rispone and Abraham were both endorsed by President Donald Trump (R) and the Louisiana Republican Party. Each candidate described himself as the stronger challenger to Edwards. Several polls leading up to the primary showed either Rispone and Abraham tied within margins of error for second place or Rispone with a small advantage.
Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South and the only Democrat holding statewide office in Louisiana. Donald Trump won the state by 20 percentage points in 2016. The Republican Governors Association has described Louisiana as a top pickup opportunity, while the Democratic Governors Association has said Edwards’ popularity positions him for re-election.
Of the five gubernatorial elections between 1999 and 2015, three were won outright in the primary and two (in 2003 and 2015) proceeded to general elections. Edwards was elected governor in 2015 with 56% of the vote, defeating U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R) in the general election. He succeeded Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).