John Bel Edwards' bid for a second term as the Deep South's only Democratic governor will be decided in November, after Louisiana voters Saturday sent him to a runoff in a race that became heavy with national politics in the final days.
Edwards will face Republican businessman Eddie Rispone in the Nov. 16 runoff.
In addition to keeping the governor's race going for five more weeks, Louisiana voters reelected five of the six Republican statewide elected officials running for another term, sending the sixth to a runoff. They also decided whether to rewrite four provisions in the state constitution.
All candidates, regardless of party, ran against each other on the same ballot. Runoff elections are held among the top two vote-getters in each competition if no candidate reaches more than 50% of the vote.
Edwards faced five opponents on the ballot, though the competition focused on two major Republican challengers: Rispone, of Baton Rouge, who has spent millions of his own wealth on the race, and Ralph Abraham, a third-term congressman and doctor from northeast Louisiana.
Both GOP contenders suggested Edwards is out of step with Louisiana, saying taxes he supported to balance the budget are too high and are chasing people and businesses from the state.
Edwards says Louisiana is rebounding from an economic recession and a decade of budget crises after a bipartisan tax deal ended the state's financial instability. He's touting fewer people uninsured after he expanded Medicaid and a decline in the state's prison population after a legislative overhaul of criminal sentencing laws.
The candidates have spent more than $24 million on the race, and outside PACs have added millions more in TV advertising, digital media spots and mailers.
OTHER STATEWIDE SEATS
Five Republican incumbents won reelection to their statewide positions: Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Attorney General Jeff Landry, Treasurer John Schroder, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain. GOP Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin was forced into a runoff.
Donelon faced the fiercest competition, an intraparty challenge from Tim Temple, who's worked in the insurance industry for 20 years and put $1.8 million of his own money into the race. But Donelon, in office since 2006, secured a fourth term as commissioner.
Few other opponents to the GOP incumbents had done significant fundraising.
Nungesser easily gained a second term, defeating Willie Jones, a New Orleans Democrat. Landry, also in his first term, bested Ike Jackson Jr., a Democrat from Plaquemine and lawyer who once worked in the attorney general's office.
Schroder, a former state lawmaker who won his position in a 2017 special election, overcame two opponents, including New Orleans area lawyer Derrick Edwards, who unsuccessfully challenged Schroder two years ago.
Strain, a veterinarian in office since 2008, won outright against four people vying to unseat him, including Charlie Greer, a Natchitoches Parish farmer and Democrat who ran unsuccessfully in 2015. Strain's other challengers also were farmers: New Orleans vegetable and flower farmer Marguerite Green and Lettsworth tree farmer Peter Williams are Democrats, while rice and crawfish farmer Bradley Zaunbrecher from Egan is a Republican.
But Ardoin, who worked as a top deputy in the secretary of state's office before winning the job in last year's special election, will face a rematch in November against Gwen Collins-Greenup. The Democrat from Clinton, who has worked in notary and real estate businesses, lost to Ardoin in the 2018 runoff.
Voters decided four proposals to change the Louisiana Constitution.
They rejected Amendment 1, which would have created a property tax exemption for certain raw materials and other maintenance items headed for oil and gas drilling work in the Gulf of Mexico's Outer Continental Shelf.
They supported Amendment 2 to broaden how money from a state education fund can be used, allowing spending on three additional schools and educational programming from Louisiana Public Broadcasting.
They supported Amendment 3 to widen the authority of the state tax appeals board to let the appointed board members determine whether certain tax and fee measures are constitutional, without a taxpayer having to go to court to settle a tax dispute. The Board of Tax Appeals decision could be appealed to the courts, or a taxpayer could still take a disagreement directly to court instead.
They rejected Amendment 4, which would have let the city of New Orleans exempt properties with up to 15 residential units from property taxes, as an incentive to create affordable housing.
LOUISIANA SUPREME COURT
In the runoff, voters in the New Orleans area will choose a new associate Supreme Court justice to fill a seat left vacant when former Justice Greg Guidry was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to a lifetime federal judgeship.
The top two vote-getters advancing to the November election were: Will Crain, a state appeals court judge from Madisonville, and Hans Liljeberg, a state appeals court judge from Metairie.