Competing press conferences held during the week following the October primary helped draw part of the battle lines in the runoff for governor.
On one side you saw parish sheriffs, a few of them Republicans, and some of the old courthouse cliques gravitating toward state Rep. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat. On the other side was the GOP establishment, anchored by members of Congress or their representatives, standing behind U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican.
At Vitter’s event, the newest name to the fold, at least on the invitation, was Congressman Garret Graves, who steered clear of making an endorsement in the primary. He was joined on the invitation by three men, among others, who are angling for Vitter’s job: Treasurer John Kennedy and Congressmen Charles Boustany and John Fleming.
Edwards’ primary lead and early outreach for the Nov. 21 runoff are decidedly rural. But no matter which angle you view the developing trend, there are caveats that point to a long country road ahead.
Edwards managed to win the most primary votes in 23 rural parishes that former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu lost in 2014. It’s a starting point for the Democrat from West Point, but most of those parishes he won’t be able to cling to, including but not limited to Livingston and Beauregard, which split up its Republican votes between Vitter, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.
The majority of these rural parishes that Edwards led in also gave 60 percent or more of their votes to the Republican candidates. Yet Edwards is showing that he’s not your typical Louisiana Democratic candidate — or rather he hasn’t been defined as such, which may be remedied by the TV dump that has already started.
Edwards had a higher share of the vote than Angelle and Dardenne combined in nearly half of the state, or 31 parishes total in the primary, not including two parishes where he was tied with their collective tally.
It’s a small opening for a candidate who basically grew up in a courthouse, with a lineage of sheriffs in his family, and who lives in what amounts to a farm setting in Tangipahoa Parish. Edwards ran much better at home, carrying 55 percent of the vote, than Vitter did in Jefferson, where the senior senator chalked up 38 percent. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, who is unmistakably anti-Vitter, won his re-election on Saturday with 88 percent.