Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards won the governor’s run-off election in Louisiana Saturday, defeating U.S. Republican Senator David Vitter by more than 140,000 votes and 12 percentage points (56-44 percent).
Edwards’ victory comes as somewhat of an upset, as the now governor-elect was relatively unknown state-wide. Conversely, Sen. Vitter has been in elected office for 23 years now, first as state representative from 1992-1999, then U.S. representative from 1999-2005, and finally U.S. Senator from 2005-present.
Vitter announced in his concession speech that he will not seek re-election to the Senate when his term ends at the end of 2016.
Saturday night’s election represents the first victory for Democrats in Louisiana since U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu won re-election in 2008. Edwards is also the first Democrat to win governorship in the Deep South since Kathleen Blanco, also of Louisiana, in 2004.
“This election shows us that the people of Louisiana in a time of deep cynicism about our politics . . . have chosen hope over scorn”, Edwards said in his victory speech in New Orleans Saturday night. “I did not create this breeze of hope that’s rolling across our beautiful state. But I did catch it.”
Edwards’ choice of words is interesting given the bitter nature of the campaign, especially over the past month, highlighted by his attacks on Vitter which ranged from a 2007 prostitution scandal the Senator was involved in, to accusations that the Vitter campaign had indiscreetly recorded conversations of political rivals.
Beyond the personal scandals of Sen. Vitter, both candidates tried to associate each other with unpopular political figures in Louisiana. While Vitter unsuccessfully tried to tie his opponent to President Obama, Edwards was able to make the more plausible connection between the GOP gubernatorial candidate and unpopular out-going governor, Bobby Jindal.
In the end, Edwards appealed to Louisiana voters as an ex-Army Ranger from a rural district with socially conservative political views (pro-gun and anti-abortion).
Despite this election bucking the trend of a Republican winning in what has become a “deep-red” state, one important trend didn’t change: growing campaign expenditures. Both sides spend a total of $30 million to finance their campaigns, setting a new record in the history of Louisiana’s gubernatorial elections.
[AP] [Roll Call] [The Times-Picayune] [Photo courtesy dailykos.com]