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What's Next in the Race for Louisiana Governor?

John Bel Edwards (left) will face off against Eddie Rispone (right) are the two candidates for Louisiana Governor in Nov. 16 runoff.

Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and Republican businessman Eddie Rispone are headed to a November 16 runoff.

Edwards earned 47 percent of the votes cast in the primary-- 20 percentage points higher than Rispone. But when you factor in the votes cast for Abraham, the top two Republicans combined for 51 percent of the vote, signaling a tough road ahead for Edwards.

Here to talk about the results and what happens next is Robert Hogan, chairman of Louisiana State University's political science department.

Q: So what are some of your key takeaways from Saturday's results?

On the face of it, it looks as though the incumbent, Governor Edwards is in pretty good shape. He just needs to add a few more percentage points there and it gets him over the, over the top and and he'll, he'll win reelection. Of course, Louisiana is a state that has been trending Republican in recent years, and Republicans have done very well in statewide elections. So if you consider it from that angle Edwards is going to need probably some something else to happen for in order to get over Rispone in the runoff election.

Q: How does the race change now that this is a one-on-one matchup?

Yeah, I think the dynamics are going to change a great deal. In the first round of elections you could, you could talk about your opponents in rather general terms. Now there's only one opponent and so you're going to have, I think, much more targeted sorts of criticisms. You're going to have a lot more back and forth, especially in debates that, that come from this.

Q: Edwards tried desperately to keep national politics out of this race. But in the end that didn't work. We saw president Trump come to Lake Charles on the Eve of the election. What effect might that have had specifically on, on turnout and on the primary results we saw?

This was a, a last minute a trip by Trump to, to come down here to try to sway voters and more importantly to, to get them, give them a reason to turn out to vote. A lot of people have speculated that in fact it, it helped give a bump to the Republicans in such a way that, that prevented Edwards from winning outright.

But yeah, national politics is seeping into a lot of elections at the local level. Oftentimes in the past in Louisiana politics, since we have off year elections, we think that we somehow are not affected by these national level trends, but the partisanship is so strong. And the fact that we're in this constant election campaign mode and at the national level it is seeping down. I think this is a race where Eddie Rispone has a huge incentive to nationalize his election.

Q: You mentioned it a bit there, but responding from the get go has embraced Trump and his politics and a lot of his messaging as well. You saw it in that first campaign ad talking about the Trump bumper sticker on his truck. But he's also emphasized his role as a businessman in a political outsider. Why does that appeal to voters?

I think Louisiana voters are very susceptible to this sort of messaging. People like the idea of the outsider. This is a state where politicians are a form of entertainment, if you will. And so they like the idea of the outsider. That's why that a businessman like Trump who's never run for office before, did so well in the election, and I think it makes a lot of sense for Rispone. He is trying to pattern his behavior and his campaign themes in the same way that that Trump did, and I think in doing so is going to appeal to a large swath of voters in the state.

Paul Braun was WRKF's Capitol Access reporter, from 2019 through 2023.