The next governor of Louisiana will be Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards, according to projections based on initial voter return Saturday. The Associated Press called the election just hours after polls closed at 8:00 p.m. EST, with Edwards maintaining a solid lead over Republican rival, U.S. Sen. David Vitter.
Edwards, a pro-gun, anti-abortion Democrat, will take term-limited Republican Bobby Jindal's seat in the governor's mansion. It's the culmination of a bitter campaign in which Edwards resurfaced a prostitution scandal that's dogged Vitter for years, and Vitter called Edwards “John Bel Come Lately” in reference to Edwards' stance on accepting Syrian refugees. Edwards was leading Vitter by a 54.7 percent to 45.2 percent margin as of 10:45 P.M., with 89 percent of all precincts reporting.
Republican Billy Nungesser, the former president of Plaquemines Parish, was elected lieutenant governor, defeating Baton Rogue Mayor Kip Holden.
Vitter began running for governor nearly two years ago, though has been criticized for running an ugly campaign in which he trashed would-be Republican supporters on the way to the party's nomination. He also failed to put behind him his involvement with a Washington D.C. prostitution ring, something Vitter called a “serious sin.” The moral questions only grew when members of Vitter's campaign were accused of secretly recording political opponents.
Edwards, on the other hand, frequently reminded voters of his status as a West Point graduate, his time as an Army Ranger and highlighted a desire to oversee a functioning bipartisan state government. He has his work cut out for him in Louisiana, which is facing a $500 million shortfall in its current budget cycle and a projected $1 billion budget gap in the next fiscal year.
“I will be honest with you. I will not embarrass you,” Edwards frequently said on the campaign trail, as quoted by Yahoo News.
This election marks the first time that any state in the Deep South has had a Democratic governor since former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco left office in 2008.