Of course, Edwards is trying to court voters who supported third place finisher U.S. Congressman Ralph Abraham (R-Alto). Abraham received blistering attacks from Rispone during the primary election and the Governor is hoping to peel away some of his supporters in the runoff.
This is the same strategy he used in the 2015 Governor’s race when Republican candidates were not united in the runoff election. In fact, one of the Republican candidates, former Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, endorsed Edwards. It is a different scenario in this runoff election as Abraham has given Rispone his strong endorsement.
Edwards faces the challenge of winning statewide in a state that is conservative. Other than the Governor, all the statewide elected officials are Republicans. The Governor’s victory was quite unusual in 2015 and the environment is different this year. Republicans have the advantage of President Donald Trump, who will hold a Louisiana rally for Rispone in the coming weeks. The Republican Governor’s Association is already airing commercials featuring Trump blasting Edwards as a tax and spend Democrat, who lied to the voters of Louisiana.
Edwards will have plenty of money in the runoff as well. He is blitzing the airwaves with commercials labeling Eddie Rispone as “phony” and criticizing his background as a businessman who received state contracts. In the days ahead, voters can expect that Edwards will feature some Republicans and supporters of Congressman Abraham who are unable to vote for Rispone.
One of those supporters is former Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Colonel Rob Maness. He decided to officially leave the Republican Party and pledged not to support Rispone in the runoff. Maness cited Rispone’s close connection to GOP businessman and major donor Lane Grigsby, who was criticized for his role in trying to encourage a Republican State Senate candidate to withdraw from a race in exchange for promises for assistance in a potential judgeship election. Some viewed this involvement as both improper and possibly illegal. Maness cited his own history in dealing with Grigsby and said he was concerned that he would have a major influence over a Rispone administration.
Rispone criticized Grigsby for his efforts in the state senate election and said that “no one controls me.” It remains to be seen if this will be a major controversy in the final weeks of the election, but Edwards is certainly trying to make the most of it. He called Rispone “dangerous” because of his connection to Grigsby.
Today, Rispone received good news from Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. His Make Louisiana Great Again PAC has launched a TV ad campaign criticizing the Governor’s criminal justice reform initiative. His spokesman, Brent Littlefield, said the spots will focus on “rushing criminal justice reform that led to thousands of criminals being released from jail really too quickly.”
Voters can expect an avalanche of commercials from various political action committees in the weeks ahead. Overall, more money may be spent in this Governor’s race than in any in Louisiana history.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs locally at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and at 10:00 p.m. Sundays on PBS affiliate WLAE-TV, Channel 32, and from 7-11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990-AM & www.Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America's Last Chance and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and on www.JeffCrouere.com. For more information, email him at [email protected]