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Louisiana major candidates for governor qualify for election

August 6, 2019
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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and his wife Donna leave the Louisiana Secretary of State's office after he signed up to run in the upcoming election, in Baton Rouge, La., Tuesday, August 6, 2019. The candidate sign-up period for Louisiana's statewide elections ends Thursday, with the governor's race at the top of the ballot. (AP Photo/Michael DeMocker)
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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and his wife Donna leave the Louisiana Secretary of State's office after he signed up to run in the upcoming election, in Baton Rouge, La., Tuesday, August 6, 2019. The candidate sign-up period for Louisiana's statewide elections ends Thursday, with the governor's race at the top of the ballot. (AP Photo/Michael DeMocker)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and his two major Republican opponents formally registered for the governor’s race Tuesday, as qualifying for the Oct. 12 ballot opened, signaling the unofficial intensifying of campaign season.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone are hoping to keep Edwards from a second term as the only Democratic governor in the Deep South. Republicans nationally have targeted the seat, one of three governor’s races in the nation, as a possible pickup. Democrats want to prove their candidates are viable in conservative states.

Edwards showed up with a group of supporters chanting “Four more years!” as he and his wife Donna entered the building, while Abraham supporters jockeyed for attention with their own signs.

With the election seen as a referendum on his four-year tenure, Edwards described his term as a rejection of the financial policies and budget instability of Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal. He touted new investments in education programs and the decline in the state’s uninsured rate because of his Medicaid expansion program.

“We are moving in a much better direction,” Edwards said. “Do you want to go back to the failed policies of the past? Because that’s what my opponents offer.”

Asked his vision for another four-year term, the governor didn’t detail new policies he intended to pursue. Instead, he said he’d have “a continued emphasis on the things we did” in the first term.

Abraham and Rispone blamed Edwards’ tax policies for chasing residents and businesses from Louisiana. Edwards and the majority-Republican Legislature used tax hikes to end the repeated shortfalls of the Jindal era.

Rispone, a first-time candidate from Baton Rouge and longtime donor to conservatives, said his decades in business give him a unique perspective to run government. Both he and Abraham, a doctor from Richland Parish, said they would cut taxes, though they only offered generalities about cutting waste and improving efficiencies to explain how they would balance the budget with less money.

Abraham lags his competitors in financing. Rispone is largely self-financing his candidacy, while Edwards has been fundraising for four years. But Abraham said he’s confident in his ability to compete.

“We’ll be there. We’re there now,” the third-term congressman said.

Two others — Oscar “Omar” Dantzler, a Democrat from Hammond, and Patrick “Live Wire” Landry, a New Orleans Republican — also entered the gubernatorial contest, but with little money to compete.

In addition to the governor’s race, six other statewide jobs and all state legislative seats are on the fall ballot.

Five of the six GOP statewide elected officials signed up for their re-election bids Tuesday morning: Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Attorney General Jeff Landry, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain.

Ardoin, Donelon and Strain quickly picked up challengers. Ardoin will have a rematch with Gwen Collins-Greenup, a Democrat who lost to Ardoin in a special election for secretary of state last year.

Treasurer John Schroder, also a Republican, planned to register for his race Wednesday. He already drew an opponent he defeated in a 2017 special election to win the seat: Democratic lawyer Derrick Edwards.

Candidate registration in Louisiana continues through Thursday.

While the statewide candidates sign up at the secretary of state’s office, the contenders for Louisiana’s 144 state legislative seats will register for their races at their parish clerk of court’s office. All 39 Senate seats and 105 House seats are up for grabs, many of them without incumbents because of term limits.

One person who won’t be on the ballot for the first time in nearly five decades is Senate President John Alario, a term-limited Westwego Republican who recently announced that he won’t run for his old House seat this fall.

In each of the races, all candidates run against each other on the same ballot regardless of party. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in October, the top two vote-getters advance to the Nov. 16 runoff to settle the seat.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte .

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