Louisiana Record

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Three-way gubernatorial race likely headed to runoff, experts says

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By Chris Adams | Aug 30, 2019


The October primary race is fast approaching, but polls indicate none of the three candidates are running away from pack. 

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is currently the front runner but doesn’t appear to have enough of a commanding lead to garner the 50 percent-plus one vote needed to win the election over President Donald Trump supporters U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto) and Republican Baton Rouge millionaire contractor Eddie Rispone.

Jeffrey Sadow, an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University-Shreveport, said that negative rhetoric will likely soon intensify.

“The Edwards campaign will go very negative because it will have a problem defending his economic record,” he said in an email. “So far, the things it has thrown out there are trivial and ineffective; i.e., hard to claim Abraham somehow reneged on his constituents and is stingy by not donating his salary past his first term when the guy gave $300,000 to St. Jude's.”

Sadow was referring to Abraham’s pledge to not collect his congressional salary, which he honored through his first term but then stopped due to financial reasons.

He said that political action committees will play an important role in the election’s outcome. He indicated that PACs aligned with Edwards will duplicate his strategy.

He further noted that PACs favoring Abraham and Rispone will champion their conservative opposites of the governor.

“Already the RGA (Republican Governors Association) has started its campaign defining Edwards as part of the old pay-to-play regime,” Sadow said. “More will come lambasting his economic record and tying him to national Democrats.”

Sadow said the only way Edwards can win is to produce an unprecedented turnout model that disproportionately draws from minorities and urban areas and discourages conservatives, suburbanites, and whites.

He predicted Edwards will make only vague references to policy and piggyback on the campaigns of others seeking office while distancing himself from national Democrats.

Edwards stands a much better chance in a general election than a runoff because a lack of competitive races comprising Democrats could translate into a significant number of his voters not returning to the polls, he said..

“As for Abraham and Rispone, they simply have to make the runoff, so they must distinguish themselves from Edwards and themselves, with the latter achieved by Abraham touting experience and Rispone his outsider status,” he wrote.

Louisiana has an open primary system where all candidates compete against each other. If no candidate receives 50 percent or more of the vote, the top two contestants advance to a runoff.

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