By Nicole Becnel & Nick BeJeaux
The results are in, and by now the entire state knows that the next governor of Louisiana will either be Senator David Vitter (R), or Representative John Bel Edwards (D).
Even though Vitter was on top of the poles going into the Oct. 24 election, things have certainly changed. Edwards managed to capture 40 percent of the vote, taking the majority in 35 parishes. In East Baton Rouge Parish alone, Edwards owned 49.27 percent of all votes cast. Edwards did exceptionally well in Orleans Parish, winning 72.15 percent of the vote. Edwards even nipped at Vitter’s heels in Jefferson Parish, Vitter’s home turf, with 33.82 percent, less than four points behind Vitter.
Vitter’s campaign went very strongly until it was rocked by allegations of another sex scandal and a marked record of absenteeism from debates. Yet, with 23 percent of the vote, Vitter still managed to outpace Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne (R) and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R). Vitter managed to carry only 10 parishes, performing strongest in St. Tammany Parish, where he claimed 41.78 percent of the vote. Unlike Edwards, Vitter trailed far behind in his opponent’s home Parish, Tangipahoa, with only 25.25 percent of the vote behind him, compared to Edwards’ 54.59 percent.
Neither Angelle nor Dardenne have officially endorsed either of the remaining candidates. However, is Dardenne is on record saying he has whished “one of the two guys the best.” Considering that he’s also on record calling Vitter a liar, it doesn’t take many brain cells to figure out whom he’s privately given the thumbs up to.
The Runoff To the Governor’s Chair
Voters will return to the polls on Saturday, Nov. 21 to finally decide who will be the next governor of Louisiana.
This election from the beginning has mostly been about personalities, rather than policy. As November looms, the finger pointing can only be expected to intensify. Vitter has taken to underscoring Edwards’ liberal ideals, stating numerous times that “a vote for Edwards is a vote for Barack Obama.” Edwards counters with the assertion that Vitter will continue the policies of Governor Bobby Jindal, whose approval ratings in Louisiana are even lower than President Obama’s.
Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden (D) received 32 percent of the vote, putting him neck-and-neck with former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser’s (R) 31 percent. The pair will be heading into a runoff of their own, but if Nungesser is able to sway even a (relatively) small part of Jefferson Parish President John Young’s (R) 29 percent, he could easily outpace Holden and become the next Lt. Governor.
No runoff will be needed to decide the next Secretary of state, however. Incumbent Tom Schedler (R) easily defeated LSU Law Professor Chris Tyson (D), with Schedler taking over 62 percent of the vote. Both Tyson and Schedler have taken up the issue of voter participation, but their approaches to boosting turnout couldn’t be more different.
Tyson has been a vocal advocate for voting rights reform, specifically automatic voter registration during this election. He often points to research that shows Black and Latino citizens are less likely to be registered than white citizens, and planned to put in place a system that would automatically register citizens when they turn 18.
In some sense of irony, Schedler actually campaigned on the promise to reduce the number of elections the state of Louisiana holds. The Bayou State actually holds more elections per year than any other state in the South. He feels that with fewer elections, voters will vote more often and that the state will be able to provide more quality set ups and outreach with less elections to pay for.
Another important office that saw no change was the State Treasurer. John Kennedy has had to put up with a lot of headaches in his previous four terms as treasurer: a hemorrhaging education and healthcare system, a $1.6 billion deficit, and Governor Bobby Jindal’s penchant for filling budget gaps with money the state did not yet have. Jindal and Kennedy often disagreed on the finer details of handling Louisiana’s finances, so it will be interesting to see how Kennedy will interact with the next Governor.