Oct. 27, 2015 — Sen. David Vitter (R) who at one time appeared to be the early favorite to easily win the open Louisiana governor’s race, managed to advance to the general election Saturday night, but just barely.
As the polls had predicted, Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards took first place with 40 percent of the statewide vote, compared to only 23 percent for Vitter. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R), showing strength in Cajun Country, placed a close third with 19 percent preference. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R) secured 15 percent and fourth position. Five minor candidates combined for three percent.
Edwards, a Baton Rouge state legislator, placed first in 45 of the state’s 64 parishes, Louisiana’s designation for counties. He scored an outright majority in seven parishes, including Orleans, which hosts the major city of New Orleans. Here, the lone major Democratic candidate garnered 72 percent of the overall vote. Edwards took between 40 and 49 percent, inclusive, in 20 parishes. He finished first with a plurality of 39 percent or less in 18 parishes.
By contrast, Vitter placed first in only 10 parishes, several from the 1st Congressional District where he used to represent, four in the central part of the state, and another in Bossier Parish, home to Bossier City just across the Red River from Shreveport.
Angelle proved strong in the southwestern Louisiana, as well as taking small Caldwell and West Carroll parishes in the northeast.
Vitter was the subject of a slew of negative attacks, political assaults that obviously took their toll when seeing his poor performance. A sitting US senator who has twice won statewide campaigns outright should have commanded better than 23 percent of the overall vote, understanding that more than three-quarters of those who cast a ballot chose another candidate.
It became apparent that Edwards would finish first, largely because he was the consensus Democrat against a fractured field of three Republicans. The polling correctly reflected that if all of the candidates ganged up on Vitter and emphasized his negatives – Washington politician, previous sex scandal, etc. – that it would work to a great degree. In the general election campaign, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 21, it will be Vitter’s turn to strike back against a lone opponent.
The voters here can expect a very negative and nasty general election campaign. For Vitter to win, he will have to make Edwards such an unacceptable figure that voters will choose the Republican senator because he is more conservative, not because they like, or hold a positive image of him.
Despite the fact that Democrats have a 46-28 percent partisan registration edge among the state’s almost 2.9 million voters, the GOP has been dominant here in many recent campaigns and Vitter will need to draw upon this type of support if he is to carry the day in the next vote.
Largely, the rest of Saturday’s voting held true for Republicans. Though the consensus Democrat barely placed first in the lieutenant governor’s race, again against several GOP candidates, the Republicans re-elected outright the secretary of state, treasurer, and agriculture and insurance commissioners. In the attorney general’s campaign, former US Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA-3), finished a close second to incumbent Buddy Caldwell (R), and has a good chance of winning the position in the double-Republican general election.
Voter participation was 38.5 percent of the qualified registrants, or slightly over 1.1 million individuals. This is actually a bit higher than the 1.022 million who voted in 2011, when the Louisiana electorate re-elected Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) outright. The turnout was 1.264 million when Vitter won his second Senate term in the regular 2010 election.
The pre-primary polls suggesting that Edwards is ahead of Vitter in the general could well prove true. Democrats are clearly in position to score an upset, but despite being less than a month in duration, this race has a very long way to go.