As our readers know, tonight President Trump will touch down in Monroe to hold a big rally for Eddie Rispone’s gubernatorial campaign, and it should be a great night for Republicans in Louisiana. Ralph Abraham, who has been somewhat quiet since finishing third in the race – that’s not a criticism, as Abraham dutifully endorsed Rispone on the primary Election Night Oct. 12 – will be on hand as more or less the host of the rally, which will be a nice moment for Abraham since no sitting president has been to that congressional district since Ronald Reagan, and Abraham and Rispone are expected to make a public embrace after some stiff relations since the primary.
It’s all going to look very good for Republicans, and nationally it should take the sting off a mixed result in elections last night, in which Republicans solidified their hold on the Mississippi statehouse with Tate Reeves’ gubernatorial win over Jim Hood but lost the gubernatorial race in Kentucky, with Matt Bevin falling just short of re-election against Andy Beshear, though in all of the other statewide races in Kentucky Republicans triumphed, and the Virginia legislative elections were a disaster. Louisiana now becomes more or less the deciding race with respect to evaluating the electoral power of Donald Trump in American politics going into 2020 – beat John Bel Edwards, as the president is fully engaged in doing, and Trump can say he’s won more than he’s lost. Lose, and the national narrative will be that Trump is electoral poison.
That isn’t really fair to Trump, of course, as unseating an incumbent governor, even one with as poor a record as Edwards has, is difficult, and typically speaking to pull that off you need a talented, seasoned politician with lots of positive name ID. Had a John Kennedy, Steve Scalise or Jeff Landry gotten into the race it might be said that if the Republican candidate had lost it would be a repudiation of Trump.
Rispone sitting at what looks like at least even odds to win the runoff despite a bumpy and not-quite optimal campaign, with Trump as the best PR asset he’s had for most of the race, should be a feather in Trump’s cap. But it won’t be reported that way, so the stakes are obviously extremely high.
On both sides, as it turns out. If you’re paying any attention to the gubernatorial race here you know by now that Edwards has done everything he can to demagogue his voters into re-electing him. He’s telling people Rispone is going after food stamps and school lunches. He’s accusing Rispone of taking away benefits not just through Medicaid but also Medicare, which is the height of absurdity. He’s even warning that Rispone will kill the TOPS program. He’s threatening state employees that Rispone will break up their pension plans and deny them retirement. He threw a fit over a statement Rispone made essentially saying Edwards’ persistent fibbing makes him fall far short of the West Point honor code he wraps himself in, and declared Rispone had attacked all military veterans.
And then there’s Edwards’ claim that Rispone will do away with supplemental pay for first responders. Rispone tried to answer that one in a letter he sent last week responding to one local sheriff who had expressed concerns based on Edwards’ whisper campaign…
We’ve been asking around trying to find some concrete piece of messaging that came out of Edwards’ camp detailing how exactly supplemental pay for cops and firemen are supposed to be done away with, and nobody we’ve talked to has seen it. They’ve all heard Edwards is saying it, though. So it sounds like a whisper campaign and it’s being conducted largely through surrogates like Edwards’ pals at the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association. Here’s a letter that organization’s executive director Michael Ranatza sent to its membership…
The Sheriffs know Rispone isn’t going to kill supplemental pay for first responders. He couldn’t do it if he wanted to. To make that happen, he’d have to (1) decide it was enough of a political priority to push it as a proposed change to the constitution, (2) help get delegates to the constitutional convention elected who were willing to take that unpopular project on, (3) negotiate the end of supplemental pay at the convention in front of God and everybody and then (4) expend political capital on ratifying that constitution which ended supplemental pay for cops and firemen in front of a vote of the people.
Lotsa luck getting all four of those done. The whole thing is as absurd as Edwards’ other whisper campaign, that Rispone was trying to end the TOPS program. It was John Bel Edwards who cut TOPS, by the way. Not Eddie Rispone.
There is a lesson from this, which we’ll get to in a minute. But first, here is the opportunity Rispone has when he speaks tonight before Trump does. He needs to call Edwards out on his demagoguery, and he can do it by saying something like this…
“We’re winning this race, and we’re going to beat John Bel Edwards on Nov. 16. But all of you know, and you need to know, that it won’t just happen. Because we’re up against an incumbent governor, who’s well-funded by a massive machine of national Democrat money. Now, those people sending him all that cash down from Washington, millions of dollars of it, they don’t share the values of the majority of Louisianans. He and his PAC have gotten a good half million dollars from the NEA, the Hard Left teacher union that publicly talks about taking away your guns and has come out repeatedly in favor of late-term abortion on demand. John Bel says he’s pro-life and pro-gun, but he’ll pocket their money and use it to lie to you about who he is.
“And who I am.
“Ever since the majority of the voters in the state rejected him in the primary, with more than 53 percent of the people in the state choosing some other candidate and not John Bel Edwards, he’s been completely desperate. If you watched the debate last week, what you saw was John Bel Edwards lying through his teeth about almost everything having to do with his record, the state’s economy, his pardons, you name it. He lost his temper and he was unhinged. And no sooner was that debate over but those lies started circulating everywhere. Everywhere I turn now I hear things he and his people are saying about me. I don’t even recognize the Eddie Rispone they’re talking about.
“David Duke. Do you know John Bel has people running around in the black community saying I’m just like David Duke? They’re accusing the president of the same thing. It’s offensive, no doubt about that, but it’s also laughable. I’ve spent millions of dollars on trying to get educational reform in this state that would benefit poor folks, most of whom are black, by giving them an option to get out of failing public schools. What racist would do that? And my company has many hundreds of black employees who have great jobs and earn great livings in them. They know they’re cherished members of our team and we have terrific relationships there. I’m just about the last person you’d want to make that accusation against, but they don’t care.
“They don’t care about the truth. What they care about is re-electing him because it’s political power they want.
“So the lies are piling up. They’re saying I’m going to get rid of the TOPS program. Do you know who cut TOPS? Wasn’t me. I’m the biggest proponent of TOPS there is. It’s a scholarship program. I fund scholarships out of my own pocket, which John Bel Edwards hasn’t ever done. He actually cut that program.
“And they’re saying now that I’m going to get rid of supplemental pay for our first responders, because we want to call a constitutional convention and make some structural changes that get Louisiana in a position to actually compete with our neighbors. In Texas they just passed a constitutional amendment that prevents government from ever having a personal income tax. Ever. That’s the direction they’re moving in, while meantime we’re over here raising taxes. You don’t think we need to make some changes?
“But when you talk about structural change and doing things differently to get different results, what you get is demagogues like John Bel Edwards scaring people that they’re gonna lose this, they’re gonna lose that. It would be political suicide to try to cut pay from our police officers and firemen, and John Bel Edwards knows it. We all know those guys don’t get paid enough as it is – no serious person in this state wants to cut their pay. It’s an absurd threat he’s making.
“But absurd threats are his thing. They’re what he does. This is the same guy who said he would kill off college football in Louisiana if he didn’t get what amounted to $7 billion in tax hikes. And when the Republicans in the Legislature tried to roll some of that back the next thing you knew it was Grandma he was going to throw out of the nursing home. He even sent out eviction letters and scared our poor elderly thinking they’d be on the street, when that was never going to happen.
“What does it say about a man who’s willing to sink to such depths just to hang on to power over his fellow man? Does it say he loves Louisiana and our people and wants what’s best for them? Or does it say he loves himself, and his cronies around him who hook him up with money and favors as part of his pay-for-play corruption?
“When you’re willing to lie and threaten people like that it shows you don’t respect them. And John Bel Edwards doesn’t respect anybody. He threatens and gaslights them, he lies and he cheats. He hides behind that West Point honor code that he says he lives by, but nobody who’s paying attention sees that honor code in his actions. We see the opposite.
“He has to go. We can’t heal this state, and we can’t start to compete with our neighbors who are taking advantage of the Trump economic boom, until we clean this stain of lies and corruption off and start fresh with new leadership. The opportunity is here, and we have to take it by getting every last patriotic, good citizen to the polls to fight for a free, prosperous future for the Louisiana we love.”
And finally, the lesson of all this. If John Bel Edwards wins re-election by demagoguing Rispone’s policy positions, and specifically in this case the constitutional convention, it’s going to set in stone a political axiom that nobody should ever talk about policy in a gubernatorial race ever again.
David Vitter put out a 50-page detailed reform agenda when he ran four years ago, and every special interest in the state saw it and went after him. They didn’t attack his policies, they talked about hookers nonstop until the voters couldn’t tolerate the idea of Vitter as governor. Five years earlier Vitter had won re-election to the U.S. Senate with 57 percent of the vote with the same baggage; the difference was the special interests weren’t motivated to take him down then because as a U.S. Senator he wasn’t a threat to their interests at the state level.
Rispone doesn’t have anything like hookers, so what you get instead are wild threats about TOPS, supplemental pay, food stamps and the like. And if that works, what it means is any kind of fundamental change, when Louisiana needs practically a complete reset, can never be litigated before the voting public because an honest debate isn’t possible. Not when you have a demagogue like John Bel Edwards who will have written the playbook for the status quo, and not when you have a legacy media completely unwilling to call out such dishonest tactics – instead, the Advocate and other outlets are gleefully amplifying them.
So all policy agendas will be held in secret and not discussed until after the election. It’ll be the Louisiana equivalent of passing Obamacare so you can find out what’s in it. That might be the only way to get any fundamental changes made, but it’s certainly not any kind of way to run a railroad.
So when we say this election is critical to the future of Louisiana, more critical than any in our history, this is what we’re talking about. Without voting for change you’re going to insure Louisiana has no future at all; we’ll just have lies and failure, and U-Hauls making their way east, west and north over potholed roads.
Rispone has to win this argument, but we’ve got to help him. Don’t just vote – get everyone you know to do the same.