John Bel Edwards, Democrat. Defeats David Vitter in Louisiana Governor’s Race

22 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Democrat John Bel Edwards declared winner in runoff election for La. governor.

Following his defeat to Democrat John Bel Edwards in Saturday’s Louisiana gubernatorial election, GOP Sen. David Vitter announced that he will retire from the Senate next year, ensuring another busy year of campaigning in a state with no shortage of ambitious politicians.

Voters’ rejection of Vitter was a stunning turn of events for the U.S. senator, who has been a political powerhouse in the state for years and started his campaign nearly two years ago as the race’s front-runner. However, after months of attacks, include those about his 2007 prostitution scandal, Vitter barely defeated his two Republican challengers in last month’s open primary and finished second behind Edwards by roughly 14 percentage points. Vitter made the announcement during an appearance to campaign supporters in the New Orleans suburbs Saturday evening after it became apparent that he would not win the governor’s race.

To be sure, Democrats didn’t expect to win the Louisiana governorship, considering Republicans now control every governorship and state legislature in the Deep South. And when Vitter entered the race in January 2014 as the frontrunner, he was pulling in tremendous sums of campaign cash and firing up a dominant political machine that he’s used to get himself and his allies regularly elected to Louisiana offices.

A more promising red state Democrat could hardly have been found than Edwards, a Catholic social conservative from a family of rural law enforcement officers who graduated from West Point and served eight years of active duty in the Army. Louisiana has all-party primaries. “I’ve reached my personal term limit,” Vitter said as he conceded the gubernatorial race. “I’m very confident we’re going to elect another strong conservative to fill this Senate seat next year.” One thing is clear: After a big loss in a damaging gubernatorial race, Vitter’s decision to step aside increases Republicans’ chances of holding his Senate seat. Edwards focused on his West Point degree and military resume, and he pledged a bipartisan leadership style. “The people have chosen hope over scorn, over negativity and over distrust of others,” Edwards said in his victory speech, before leading a second-line parade with a jazz band through the French Quarter hotel ballroom. Vitter’s decision likely comes as a relief to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has an obligation to protect incumbents and would rather devote its resources to swing states like Ohio, New Hampshire and Wisconsin than to helping a damaged red-state incumbent. Vitter is frequently a thorn in the side of the GOP leaders who control the campaign committee, but more importantly, Republicans would rather not have to spend money defending territory their presidential nominee will easily carry by a double-digit margin.

Neither Edwards nor Vitter offered detailed roadmaps for tackling the budget woes, and the general outlines they touted were largely similar in approach. But it apparently didn’t work. “I had decided when I decided to make this race with (wife) Wendy that I wanted to pursue new challenges outside the Senate no matter what. Three of the potential Republican candidates — Boustany, Fleming and Kennedy — endorsed and campaigned with Vitter, hoping he would appoint them to fill his seat once he took control in Baton Rouge. The race has also been a slugfest of attack ads and one of the most expensive governor’s races in Louisiana history, with at least $30 million spent by candidates and outside groups. Republican strategists in Washington had expressed reluctance to put money behind him, preferring a candidate who would be an easier sell in a tricky election year for Senate Republicans.

Vitter was thought to be that Republican, given his overwhelming fundraising advantage, unquestioned conservative reputation and proven skill at crushing challengers. Vitter attacked the other Republicans as free-spending liberals while they labeled Vitter “vicious” and “a liar,” bringing up the prostitution scandal in debates.

Madam.” He had trouble uniting Republicans after a blistering primary competition in which Vitter trashed two GOP rivals and received heavy criticism for his scorched-earth political style. Soon after, a private investigator working for the Vitter campaign was arrested after surreptitiously filming a group of men at a cafe outside New Orleans – a gathering that included another private investigator, one who had tracked down the escort in the online video. Kennedy spent about $1 million on television advertising for his non-competitive 2015 race in an effort to boost his name identification, and he still has about $2.5 million he could transfer to a federal super PAC set up to back him.

Vitter, 54, limped into Saturday’s runoff after finishing far behind Edwards, 49, in the primary, and became the standard-bearer for a Republican Party splintered by infighting. Edwards, in turn, tried to keep the focus away from party or ideology and on his military background, Vitter’s scandal and the increasingly unpopular Jindal, who after two terms was barred by term limits from seeking re-election.

Edwards’ victory may give Democrats an emotional boost heading into the Senate contest, but it’s unlikely any Republican who emerges from the pack will be as damaged as Vitter. Still, Edwards returned to a theme he had emphasized in contrasting himself with his opponent. “I will always be honest,” he said. “I will never embarrass you. With his anti-abortion and pro-gun stances and tenure as an Army Ranger, Edwards downplayed his Democratic roots, positioned himself as a moderate and said he’d govern in a way that unites the state, claiming Vitter would bring his divisive, Washington-style politics to Louisiana.

Vitter said Edwards was misrepresenting a record filled with votes supporting teacher unions and trial lawyers and opposing business interests and education reform efforts. “His campaign is built on a myth that he is some sort of a conservative, that we don’t differ on the issues, when we definitely do,” Vitter said. The candidates did little to mask their distaste for each other in the two televised runoff debates, both of which escalated into near shouting matches at various points.

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