Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards is projected to win a second term as Louisiana governor after early AP polling results show him narrowly defeating Republican opponent, businessman Eddie Rispone.
Edwards was up by over 19,300 votes with 96 percent, or 1.45 million, of all votes counted on Saturday night, according to AP.
Louisiana was the third and final state to vote on its governor after Edwards missed winning re-election in the October primary, triggering a run-off. Edwards had won 47 percent of the primary vote, followed by Rispone on 27 percent, and fellow Republican Ralph Abraham in 24 percent.
A West Point graduate, Edwards campaigned to voters as a Louisiana Democrat with political views that sometimes don’t match his party’s leaders.
“They talk about I’m some sort of a radical liberal. The people of Louisiana know better than that. I am squarely in the middle of the political spectrum,” Edwards said. “That hasn’t changed, and that’s the way we’ve been governing.”
He was elected to the Louisiana House in 2011 and first won the governor’s in 2015, defeating former Senator and Republican David Vitter by a 55 to 44 percent margin.
The defeat was due in part to Vitter’s 2007 prostitution scandal, in which a prostitute in Washington D.C. identified him as a client. It was also reported that he had had fraught relationships with several Republicans in the state. The vote subsequently went down as one of the biggest political upsets in history.
Once in office, Edwards demonstrated his opposition to gun restrictions, signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans, and has recently dismissed the impeachment effort as a distraction.
Rispone, a 70-year-old owner of a Baton Rouge industrial contracting company, had little name recognition before introducing himself as a candidate in adverts declaring his support for President Donald Trump.
Trump threw his support behind Rispone in the run-off, posting to Twitter on Saturday: “Good morning Louisiana! Polls are open at 7AM. Get out and VOTE for @EddieRispone to be your next Gov! He will get your taxes and auto insurance (highest in Country!) way down. Loves our Military & Vets. Will protect your 2A,” along with a link to locations of polling stations.
Trump was eager to see Rispone gain the governorship in the run up to the 2020 election, particularly in the wake of Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin being defeated by Democrat Andy Beshear earlier this month.
Both parties spent millions on adverts on top of at least $36 million spent by candidates, according to AP.
UPDATE: With 100 percent of 1,508,597 votes counted, Edwards has won the gubernatorial election with 51.3 percent of the vote.
With reporting by The Associated Press.