John Bel Edwards: Democrat wins governor election in Louisiana

Media caption,
John Bel Edwards addressed supporters after taking victory

Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards has secured a second term as Louisiana governor after a tightly fought election race.

Mr Edwards faced a strong challenge from Republican Eddie Rispone, winning with 51% of the vote.

It comes as a blow to President Donald Trump who backed his fellow Republican.

Mr Trump visited the state three times during the past two weeks, turning the race into a test of his own popularity in the southern state.

"Tonight, the people of Louisiana have chosen to chart their own path," Mr Edwards told a crowd of supporters on Saturday.

"And as for the president, God bless his heart," he added, drawing laughter from some onlookers.

Mr Edwards, 53, was first elected governor in 2015 and remains the only state-wide elected Democrat in the historically Republican state.

He positioned himself as a conservative Democrat, supporting the expansion of Obama-era healthcare reforms but opposing abortion and gun restrictions.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Republican contender Eddie Rispone positioned himself as a "conservative outsider" with backing from President Trump

The campaign also drew on the success of tax increases under his first term, which helped to end the state's overwhelming financial deficits. The new money has been used to fund investment in public colleges and the first pay rise in a decade for teachers.

His Republican rival, Mr Rispone, billed himself as a "conservative outsider" in the mould of President Trump, and spent over $12m (£9.3m) of his own money on the race.

But he avoided many traditional public events during the campaign, and often side-stepped questions about his plans for tax cuts and constitutional reform.

"We have nothing to be ashamed of," Mr Rispone told supporters after receiving news of his defeat. "We had over 700,000 people in Louisiana really want something better and something different."

Saturday's election marked the second Democratic victory in a traditionally Republican state this month, after Republicans lost the governorship race in Kentucky.

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