John Bel Edwards and family
Louisiana gubernatorial hopeful John Bel Edwards with his wife Donna and their three children (Courtesy of John Bel Edwards for Governor)

Bay­ou State vot­ers shocked the Louisiana Repub­li­can Par­ty and pun­dits across the coun­try Sat­ur­day night, over­whelm­ing­ly choos­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive John Bel Edwards as the next gov­er­nor of Louisiana over the once-heavy favorite, U.S. Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor David Vit­ter, a vic­tor of many past statewide elections.

John Bel Edwards and family
Louisiana guber­na­to­r­i­al hope­ful John Bel Edwards with his wife Don­na and their three chil­dren (Cour­tesy of John Bel Edwards for Governor)

Edwards, forty-nine, cur­rent­ly rep­re­sents Louisiana’s 72nd Dis­trict in its House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. His guber­na­to­r­i­al cam­paign enjoyed the sup­port of a unit­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty from the get-go, where­as sev­er­al Repub­li­cans clashed with each oth­er in the hopes of suc­ceed­ing incum­bent Bob­by Jin­dal, who is term-limited.

Louisiana, for read­ers who don’t know, has a messy jun­gle-style gen­er­al elec­tion sim­i­lar to our awful Top Two sys­tem. In fact, it was the inspi­ra­tion for I‑872, the ini­tia­tive that cre­at­ed the Two Two sys­tem. In Louisiana, can­di­dates from all par­ties com­pete against each oth­er, and there is no par­ti­san pri­ma­ry as there is in most oth­er states. If no can­di­date gets a major­i­ty in the gen­er­al elec­tion, the top two can­di­dates advance to a runoff in late Novem­ber or ear­ly December.

Vit­ter beat out two oth­er Repub­li­cans for the right to face Edwards in a runoff, but is los­ing bad­ly tonight. With all 3,945 of Louisiana’s precincts now report­ing, the final results for tonight’s his­toric and remark­able runoff are as follows:

John Bel Edwards (D)56.11%646,860 votes
David Vit­ter (R)43.89%505,929 votes



On Jan­u­ary 18th, 2016, Edwards will become the only Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nor in the Deep South, and one of only two Demo­c­ra­t­ic statewide office­hold­ers in the region.

Edwards ran a bril­liant cam­paign that neat­ly cap­i­tal­ized on Vit­ter’s weak­ness­es, espe­cial­ly his involve­ment in the D.C. Madam scan­dal that rocked Capi­tol Hill sev­er­al years ago. Edwards’ cam­paign aired ads that ham­mered Vit­ter for choos­ing “pros­ti­tutes over patri­ots” (like this spot, titled, The Choice).

Repub­li­cans, who resort to neg­a­tive cam­paign­ing all the time, were hard­ly in a posi­tion to com­plain, but they did so any­way… loud­ly. It did­n’t matter.

After the ter­ror­ist attacks in Paris last week, Vit­ter tried to ride the abhor­rent nation­al wave of anti-refugee sen­ti­ment to vic­to­ry. But that last ditch scheme did­n’t work either, and through­out Elec­tion Night, he found him­self well behind Edwards.

“This elec­tion shows us that the peo­ple of Louisiana in a time of deep cyn­i­cism about our pol­i­tics, and also about our future, that the peo­ple have cho­sen hope over scorn… over neg­a­tiv­i­ty,” a jubi­lant Edwards said to his cheer­ing sup­port­ers dur­ing his vic­to­ry speech at the Mon­teleone Hotel.

He added: “I did not cre­ate this breeze of hope that’s rolling across our beau­ti­ful and blessed state. But I did catch it, and I thank God I did.”

Edwards’ vic­to­ry speech fol­lowed Vit­ter’s con­ces­sion, in which Vit­ter announced that he had phoned Edwards to offer his con­grat­u­la­tions. Vit­ter’s con­ces­sion speech was sur­pris­ing­ly gra­cious, and Edwards was cor­re­spond­ing­ly mag­nan­i­mous in vic­to­ry. Edwards was intro­duced by his broth­er, fol­low­ing a prayer offered by his pastor.

Vit­ter told deject­ed sup­port­ers he would leave pol­i­tics next year, choos­ing not to run for anoth­er term in the U.S. Sen­ate. His retire­ment will leave an open seat. Democ­rats will now need to recruit a strong can­di­date to take advantage.

After Edwards is sworn in, he is expect­ed to com­mit Louisiana to an expan­sion of Med­ic­aid, which will mean that thou­sands of fam­i­lies in the Bay­ou State who cur­rent­ly don’t have decent health cov­er­age will final­ly be able to get it. The man Edwards is suc­ceed­ing, the extra­or­di­nar­i­ly unpop­u­lar Repub­li­can Bob­by Jin­dal, has been an utter dis­as­ter as gov­er­nor and is leav­ing quite the mess behind.

As Jason Berry explains in The Dai­ly Beast:

The new governor’s first order of busi­ness in 2016 will be a spe­cial leg­isla­tive ses­sion to con­front the bud­get crash. Jin­dal imposed dra­con­ian cuts on high­er edu­ca­tion to off­set the sky­rock­et­ing health care costs cre­at­ed by his expen­sive alter­na­tive to [the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act]: UNO, once a ris­ing region­al research hub, lost 183 professors—39 per­cent of its full-time fac­ul­ty. Some 290,000 peo­ple in the state have no health cov­er­age, because Jin­dal refused Med­ic­aid funds under [the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act] on ide­o­log­i­cal grounds. Edwards has said he will accept the funds, which would at least be a first step in stanch­ing the hem­or­rhag­ing state budget.

In so many respects, John Bel Edwards was the per­fect can­di­date at the per­fect time for Louisiana Democ­rats. He is a devout Catholic, U.S. Army vet­er­an, and fam­i­ly man whose roots in the state go incred­i­bly deep. One of his ances­tors fought with Gen­er­al and lat­er Pres­i­dent Andrew Jack­son at the Bat­tle of New Orleans, and his fam­i­ly has been active in Bay­ou State pol­i­tics for decades. His broth­er is a parish sher­iff. So was his father, like his father’s father, who was also a state senator.

Edwards is social­ly con­ser­v­a­tive, but that’s to be expect­ed of Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates in red regions like the Deep South. Like me, he was a Demo­c­ra­t­ic del­e­gate to the 2012 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion in Char­lotte for Barack Obama.

The Repub­li­can Gov­er­nors Asso­ci­a­tion tried to use this fact to asso­ciate Edwards with Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma (who Edwards has nev­er met), but as we can see from tonight’s elec­tion results, that dog sim­ply would­n’t hunt this time.

We at NPI extend our con­grat­u­la­tions to John Bel Edwards on his amaz­ing vic­to­ry in this guber­na­to­r­i­al runoff, and wish him the best as he pre­pares to take office as Louisiana’s new chief exec­u­tive. We hope he gov­erns pro­gres­sive­ly and brings broad pros­per­i­ty to the Bay­ou State’s many diverse communities.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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