Louisiana's Edwards faces bigger GOP majorities in second term

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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, narrowly won reelection to a second term that will pit him against GOP lawmakers who gained a Senate supermajority.

Edwards took 51.3% of the voting in Saturday's runoff, while his Republican challenger, Eddie Rispone, received 48.7% of the ballots cast.

Rispone, a businessman and first-time candidate for office, lost the election despite having an endorsement from President Donald Trump, who made three in-state campaign appearances. Both labeled Edwards a tax-and-spend liberal.

“As for the president, God bless his heart,” Edwards said Saturday in his only direct comment on Trump at his campaign victory speech in Baton Rouge. “If this campaign taught us anything it’s that the partisan forces in Washington were not strong enough.”

Edwards, who overcame $2 billion deficit to return structural balance to the state budget during his first term, said he will continue working in the next four years on some of his goals such as improving early childhood education and increasing the minimum wage.

The state has already invested more than $2.8 billion in critical infrastructure on roads, bridges and the state’s ports, he said.

“In the next four years…we’re going to continue advancing major infrastructure projects,” Edwards added.

During his first term, Edwards backed a multi-year, multi-billion dollar bond program to address a backlog of transportation projects across the state.

He also struggled at times to work with the GOP-led Legislature especially on spending measures. Over the next four years, he’ll face an even more conservative body.

In the Oct. 12 primary, voters in Senate races gave Republicans a supermajority, giving them power to override any veto issued by Edwards. Combined with Saturday’s results, Republicans won 27 of the Senate’s 39 seats, a two-seat pickup.

In the House, the GOP gained a net seven seats, ending up with 68 out of 105, two seats short of a supermajority.

In New Orleans, residents approved issuing $500 million of property tax-backed bonds for capital improvement projects in a program backed by Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Instead of developing a list of specific projects, the city said it planned to use $250 million for drainage and street projects, $225 million for public facilities and public safety equipment, and $25 million for affordable housing, according to the private nonprofit Bureau of Governmental Research in New Orleans.

The BGR recommended that voters approve the bonds.

New Orleans’ voters also approved a short-term rental tax authorizing the city to levy a permanent tax, beginning January 1, on short-term overnight rentals not to exceed 6.75% of the rent.

A state law requires that the city dedicate 75% of the STR tax revenue to a special infrastructure fund for the city and the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, and 25% to a private, nonprofit tourism promotion entity called New Orleans & Co.

Several of the initiatives on the ballot were negotiated between Cantrell and Edwards during this year’s legislative session. Cantrell, who took office as the first female mayor of the city in May 2018, congratulated Edwards and voters who she said “came out in force to show up for a governor who stood up for us.”

“Thank you as well to all of our Orleans Parish residents who stood up and spoke out for the ‘Ballot of Yes,’” Cantrell said in a statement. “Voters said yes to our bond sale, yes to our STR measure…and in doing so, they said yes to funding our critical needs and to getting our people their fair share.”

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Elections General obligation bonds Infrastructure John Bel Edwards State of Louisiana Louisiana