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Louisiana's Democratic Governor Is Reelected Despite Trump's Opposition

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Over the weekend, Louisiana voters reelected their Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards. And in the process, they may have given President Donald Trump cause for concern ahead of his own reelection bid. Paul Braun of member station WRKF in Baton Rouge reports.

PAUL BRAUN, BYLINE: President Trump was a massive presence in the race. Edwards' GOP challenger, Eddie Rispone, embraced Trump from the start, and the president himself visited the state three times to rally Republicans against the only Democratic governor in the Deep South. But in the end, Edwards edged out Rispone by about 40,000 votes. Here he is addressing supporters at his victory party.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN BEL EDWARDS: As for the president, God bless his heart.

(CHEERING)

BRAUN: Any Southerner recognizes that passive-aggressive jab. It was a rare moment of criticism directed at the president. Edwards had shied away from national politics in this race, focusing instead on state issues with bipartisan appeal. All three of the governor's races this year took place in states that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump in 2016. In Mississippi, Republicans won the open seat in the governor's mansion, but they lost in Kentucky and now Louisiana. Edwards again.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EDWARDS: The partisan forces in Washington, D.C., are not strong enough to break through the bonds that we share as Louisianans.

BRAUN: J. Miles Coleman is a political analyst and Louisiana native.

J MILES COLEMAN: Whoever the Democrats nominate, they're not going to be, you know, someone like John Bel Edwards, you know? He's a decently conservative Democrat, and, you know, he was able to hold on, but it was close.

BRAUN: Coleman says the defeats may have proven that the president can't inflict his will on races where he's not on the ballot. But Trump shouldn't necessarily be concerned about those states in 2020. What it does appear to show is the widening divide between rural and urban voters and suburban voters' shift to Democratic candidates. That was most pronounced in the New Orleans suburbs. Edwards got 57% of the vote in Jefferson Parish and completely flipped traditionally red precincts within the city.

COLEMAN: What's crazy to me as someone who's grown up around these places, how we usually think of them, like, as historically, you know, the heart of the state Republican Party. Well, in contested races, they're basically swing regions.

BRAUN: Showing that the suburbs may be battlegrounds even in long-standing conservative strongholds. For NPR News, I'm Paul Braun in Baton Rouge. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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