For the first time this election season, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards can be called the favorite to win reelection. It was about the only thing that went right for Louisiana Democrats and their fellow travelers in the 2019 state general elections.
Edwards ended up just over 46.5 percent of the vote, with Republican businessman Eddie Rispone edging past GOP Rep. Ralph Abraham for a runoff spot at a bit over 27 percent of the vote. Three minor candidates collected fewer than three percent among them.
Together, the two major Republicans pulled down just about 51 percent of the vote. They can count on perhaps two percent that went to the minor candidates; with most of the rest not voting in the runoff. Few of these contrarian voters will cast ballots for Edwards; people who vote for minor candidates either do it knowing they don’t want to vote for the incumbent or feel so principled that they won’t vote for anybody but that candidate.
Thus, the GOP base in the runoff is around 53 percent. Rispone can’t afford much leakage, but catches breaks in that Democrats won’t have much else to stimulate turnout. The only statewide race also into a runoff was for secretary of state, with a rematch of incumbent Republican Kyle Ardoin and Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup – but the only reason that happened was the presence of two other Republicans in the contest. In all other races, in contrast to Edwards’ near-47 percent, statewide down-ballot Democrats pulled no more (sometimes in combination) than 35 percent.
In legislative races, in the Senate there will be one all-Democrat but three all-Republican races, with one mixed. In the House, there will be six all-Democrat but ten all-Republican runoffs, with a couple of more featuring a Republican and no-party candidate, one with a Democrat and no-party candidate, and a few Democrat v. Republican. Finally, in Board of Elementary and Secondary Education races, the only one going to a runoff will be a pair of Republicans. So, more GOP voters will be encouraged to turn out than Democrats, giving Rispone a small boost.
Absent their good news about Edwards, things didn’t go well for Democrats. With the GOP starting the night on 43 seats assured in the House and the Democrats just 26, the question was whether Republicans could hit 70 to ensure a chamber supermajority. As midnight passed, it became clear that they would flip nine seats to reach 64, with Democrats taking just one back to reach only 33 with a no-party (but Democrat-leaning) representative mixed in. Of the seven remaining contests with either major party candidates facing off or one against a no-party candidate, numbers would make the Republican a favorite in six, just reaching the magic number if they succeed.
Matters for Democrats are worse in the Senate. There, Republicans hit 26 by flipping two seats to put them at the two-thirds number of 26, and the one remaining inter-party contest they should win, leaving Democrats with a paltry 12.
And, to add injury to insult, term limits took out a few GOP senators friendly to Edwards and replaced them with only one, state Rep. Rogers Pope. Plus, his law school buddy Republican state Sen. Ryan Gatti got pushed to the brink of elimination when GOP businessman Robert Mills took 48 percent of the vote against him in Senate District 36.
Finally, BESE retained a 6-2 GOP majority. Edwards, if he wins, will be able to appoint three of his own members.
If he wins. If he doesn’t, the 2019 state election cycle will go down as a complete disaster for Democrats.