Decision Day Nears in Louisiana Governor’s Election

Nick Reimann

After weeks of fiery debate, Election Day is finally here.

Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter faces Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards in a run-off election on Nov. 21 for the governor of Louisiana, after neither secured a majority in the primary.

Edwards won 40 percent of the vote in the Oct. 24 primary with David Vitter finishing second polling at 23 percent. While the Louisiana Democratic Party officially endorsed Edwards, the Republican field was splintered. Two other GOP candidates, former Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle, and current Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, polled at 19 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

One of the issues at the forefront of the race is higher education with each candidate seeking to distance himself from the budget-slashing administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Vitter said he feels that Louisiana’s economy is dependent on providing quality education.

“Louisiana needs a stable, first-rate, affordable higher ed system. Our economy depends on it,” Vitter said. “Even more importantly, students deserve it. I’m the only candidate in this race with a detailed plan to accomplish this.”

John Bel Edwards also seeks to relieve the burden students face due to the budget cuts.

“I am committed to stopping these tuition increases,” said Edwards in a Nov. 16 debate. “They’re pricing our kids out of higher education, they’re making sure our kids don’t have the opportunity to live the American dream right here in Louisiana.”

Robert Mann, journalist and political historian, said that he feels that while college-aged voters are rightly concerned about higher education spending, they shouldn’t judge the candidates based on this issue alone.

“They should be concerned with the same issues that every other voter is,” Mann said. “I don’t think there are issues unique to young people.”

Mann said that there are longer-term issues that he thinks young people are looking for in the next governor.

“They are looking for an environment and an economy where they can find a good-paying job and stay in Louisiana,” Mann said.

With the race entering its final days, polls show Edwards holding a lead, such as a recent University of New Orleans poll giving Edwards a 22-point lead overall. It also shows him doing surprisingly well with Republicans, polling 27 percent of the vote.

Despite these lopsided poll numbers, Mann warns it will not be a landslide.

“I think it’s going to be a much closer election than the polls are showing,” Mann said. “Edwards is not going to win by 10 points or more. I think, in the end, a lot of Republicans are going to come home, and they’re going to vote for Vitter.”

Sean Cain, Loyola political science professor, said that even in a deeply red state like Louisiana, Edwards has an advantage in not belonging to the same party as Bobby Jindal.

“After eight years of a Republican governor, in American two-party politics, there tends to be a pendulum swing,” Cain said. “Because it’s been eight years of a Republican governor, and because it’s not a presidential election year, it’s an environment a little more conducive to a Democratic candidate.”

According to Sean Wells, founder of the Republicans for John Bel Edwards Political Action Committee, it’s time for the pendulum to swing.

“My party’s leadership is embarrassing at the present time. Their candidate selections over the last eight years have been poor to say the least, and Louisiana’s governor’s race is a crowning example,” Wells said.

The race, once seen as a likely Republican candidate in a traditionally republican state as Louisiana, is now anything but.

The Cook Political Report, who analyzes races and rates the likelihood of a certain party winning, listed Louisiana as “likely Republican” on Oct. 8.

As of Nov. 18, they list it as “leaning Democratic.”