Several rural parishes that supported Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2015 are now solidly in the corner of GOP challenger Eddie Rispone, or are at least leaning his way, creating what could become a critical roadblock for the incumbent’s re-election campaign.
In the 2015 primary, Edwards managed to win the most primary votes in 23 rural parishes that former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu lost in 2014. While black voters were a driving force in his memorable election, it was also the country vote that helped Edwards cross the finish line.
After the recent primary vote, Rispone has either won or turned competitive 11 of those rural parishes, gathering a total of 116,000 votes to Edwards’ 156,000.
Rispone flipped five outright, including the parishes of Beauregard, Jefferson Davis, Livingston, Union and Webster. He lost another by less than 100 votes (Allen) and another five by less than 1,000 votes (Ascension, Catahoula, Evangeline, Jackson and St. Mary).
At this point, however, Rispone has merely made this segment of the runoff competitive. He’s down by 40,000 votes in these 23 rural parishes. Moreover, Edwards won Calcasieu, Tangipahoa and Rapides by more than 6,000 votes each, and enjoyed a more than 11,000 vote lead in Ouachita.
What’s not factored in here is where the votes of Congressman Ralph Abraham, the race’s third-place finisher from north Louisiana, will go, although it doesn’t take much imagination to see many of them landing at Rispone’s feet.
While every prognosticator around will tell you that Edwards has to increase black turnout in the runoff, these numbers from rural parishes show he has other problems as well. The governor has got to go into these rural parishes and grab the totals he pulled down in 2015.
That’s no easy task along the countryside, where folks have to “drive into town” to vote. Then again, Edwards remembers those back country roads well. (His favorite XM station is Willie’s Roadhouse.) The real question is whether voters there will remember him.