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Democrat Surges Ahead of Vitter in La.

Democrat Surges Ahead of Vitter in La.
Louisiana governor candidates (AP)

By Monday, 26 October 2015 08:00 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Louisiana election results Saturday stunned prognosticators and politicians of both parties. Democrat John Bel Edwards not only topped the field in the initial balloting for Louisiana governor but also rolled up a handsome lead over the Republican once considered a cinch for two-term Sen. David Vitter.

A just-completed KPLC/Raycom Media poll of likely voters says that in the Nov. 21 run-off, Edwards would demolish Vitter by a margin of 52 percent to 33 percent. A Public Policy Polling found similar results, with Edwards leading by 50 percent to 38 percent.

With only three governorships to be decided by voters in November (the other two are in Kentucky and Mississippi), the scenario of a Democrat capturing the office won twice with ease by Republican Bobby Jindal (now running for president) would certainly make national political news.

Moreover, a victory by Democratic Rep. Edwards in a state where Republicans hold every statewide office as well as majorities in both houses of the legislature is sure to spark speculation that at least some Southern states won’t be written off by Democrats in the presidential race in 2016.

While most of the national press focused on problems Vitter had with two other Republicans vying in the race, Edwards’ decided differences from many national Democrats was also a help in a state that has grown increasingly Republican.

The son and brother of sheriffs of Tangipahoa Parish, Edwards, 49, is a graduate of West Point and a former U.S. Army Ranger. At a time when the Democratic Party appears to be moving leftward nationally, the Louisianan was more like the young Bill Clinton when he ran for president in 1992 as a “different kind of Democrat.”

Strongly pro-life and rated “A” by the National Rifle Association, Edwards is considered very conservative on cultural issues but less so on economic issues.

“He supports Obamacare and higher taxes,” former Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., told me. Edwards led the opposition in the legislature to Gov. Jindal’s refusal to join the Medicaid exchange and vowed in the campaign to, in his words, bring “$16 billion of our own taxes home to Louisiana over the next ten years to care for working families in our state. [Medicaid] expansion would provide health insurance to over 290,000 uninsured parents and adults, most of whom come from working families.”

Edwards also called for an increase in the state’s minimum wage and a law providing equal pay for women.

Under the Pelican State’s unique “multi-party primary,” all candidates regardless of party competed on the same ballot Saturday. Since no one received a majority, top vote-getters Edwards and Vitter will meet in a run-off Nov. 21.

Two other Republicans, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, came in third and fourth respectively, and neither has publicly congratulated Vitter or endorsed him in the run-off.

Certainly Vitter was hurt in a televised debate when Angelle hit hard at the senator’s 2007 admission that he had been to a house of prostitution. Vitter, whose marriage survived the admission, countered that he and the voters had put the issue behind him with his easy re-election in 2010. But the resultant press attention revived the issue in a big way.

Vitter was also embarrassed Friday by a bizarre incident in which private investigator Robert J. Frenzel, who had been hired by his supporters to do opposition research, was arrested after filming a group having coffee that included Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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Democrat John Bel Edwards not only topped the field in the initial balloting for Louisiana governor but also rolled up a handsome lead over the Republican once considered a cinch for two-term Sen. David Vitter.
vitter, edwards, louisiana, jindal
Monday, 26 October 2015 08:00 AM
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