Closing Statements:

The candidates each had 30 seconds for closing. 

Edwards mentioned his reversal of the budget deficit to a surplus. “If we refuse to turn into Washington D.C., I know that our best days are ahead of us.”

Rispone thanked LSU for hosting the debate. 

“Our state has the slowest economy in the country,” Rispone said. He said the state needs someone who will create jobs that will allow “our children and grandchildren” to stay in the state.

Abraham said that if he was governor, a Louisiana with a strong economy would not be a dream, but a reality.

“Well, you just heard this governor again, ‘blame, blame, blame,’” Abraham said. 

“I ask for your vote, I ask for your prayers, and I ask for your great support,” Abraham said.  

7:55 p.m.

Candidates were asked how, as governor, they would use their relationship with President Donald Trump to benefit Louisiana citizens.

Abraham said he thinks he is the only one in the state who has voted with Trump-supported legislation.

“So, yes, I will continue to work with this great President,” Rep. Abraham said.

Rispone said he is the only candidate that has “always” supported Trump, and alluded to Abraham previously suggesting Trump should step aside when he was a presidential candidate.

“I will work with this president because I like this president,” Rispone said.

Rispone said “we are doing great,” crediting that to “someone on the outside,”

“I’m an outsider. I’m a businessman,” Rispone said.

Edwards said he’s met with the president on nine different occasions and said he thinks it’s important to work with the president, no matter who it is.

7:52 p.m.

Rispone asked if he could answer the question on Medicaid, repeating that he was a businessman. 

“They want a job. They don't want to be on Medicaid,” Rispone said.

Abraham said if a Medicaid user is over 18, does not have children, and is not pregnant, he supports work requirements.

“I would not be bragging about putting 500,000 more people on Medicaid, I’d be bragging about getting them off Medicaid,” Rispone said.

7:50 p.m.

Rispone was asked if Medicaid expansion was handled properly.

“What we have today is unsustainable,” Rispone said.

When asked about Medicaid job requirements, Edwards said he supported community engagement for everyone on Medicaid.

Edwards attacked Abraham for missing more days in Congress than any other Congressman. The banter between candidates about missing days gained cheers in the crowd. 

7:45 p.m.

The next question surrounds Medicaid. 

Edwards was asked if he stands by the Medicaid expansion he signed in 2015, and if he would make any changes. He said he does stand by his team’s work.

“Most importantly, it is saving people’s lives,” Edwards said. He then referenced a cancer survivor in the audience who needed Medicaid. The crowd cheered.

“Look, I’m a family doctor. He’s a trial lawyer,” Abraham said in reference to Edwards, eliciting a few laughs from the audience.

“I will get it right. I will fix this program,” Abraham said. “We need to do much better, and I will."

7:40 p.m.

Political communication junior Justin Franklin asked if the candidates would favor or oppose gas taxes to cut down on the state’s infrastructure backlog.

Rispone said the state has infrastructure needs but that his administration would improve roads and bridges instead of allocating those funds to other projects.

Edwards said in his first year as governor he made sure infrastructure funds went to infrastructure. He said it was unrealistic to expect the $14 billion infrastructure backlog to be solved quickly but that it is getting better.

Edwards highlighted that the gas tax is 16 cents now, just as it was 30 years ago. 

He was asked if it was likely that the tax would be increased. 

Rep. Abraham said there is a crisis in the infrastructure. “If a gas tax has to be passed by the legislature, as your governor, I will guarantee it will be neutral.”

A poll was shown that 47% of voters in Louisiana supported a tax increase.

“The DOT is out of control, we need to reform it,” Abraham said.

7:37 p.m.

The next question asked if the candidate would support abortion exceptions in cases of rape or incest. 

Abraham said he would not support exceptions in the abortion law for rape or incest.

“I believe life begins at conception,” Abraham said. “A life is a life, and the decision is between the woman and her husband.”

Rispone also said he would not support exceptions. 

Edwards emphasized that he is pro-life, which is backed by his Catholic faith. He said Medicaid expansion is a pro-life issue as well. 

“I signed the bill into law as it was when it hit my desk,” Edwards said. He said the only way the state would change this is if forced by the court.

7:34 p.m.

Rispone was asked about his contribution of nearly $1 million to federal campaigns since 1996 and if these campaigns affect his definition of himself as a non-career politician.

“The only reason I’m running-- it’s not an ego trip --  it’s to make this state great again,” Rispone said. 

Rispone was asked, if elected, how he would separate his administration from his business interests. 

 7:32 p.m.  

Abraham has missed 44% of votes  since the start of his third term, which is the highest percentage of any Representative.

He was asked why he did not step aside in Congress to focus on this race.

“We are doing the job that we were elected to do,” Abraham said. He said that he would be in the state and possibly miss votes to win this election.

“We are solving problems everyday of the week,” Abraham asked.

7:30 p.m.

Edwards was asked about Johnny Anderson, who resigned from his administration after sexual harassment claims.

“There is no state for sexual harassment at all,” Edwards responded when asked about Anderson.

Edwards was asked if he reached out to the woman who made the allegations, which he did not.

“I made sure she was treated fairly and respectfully by everyone in the office,” Edwards said.

7:27 p.m.

We move onto to individual questions. Up first is Gov. Edwards.

7:25 p.m.

Political communication junior Sarah Procopio asked through a video if the candidates would raise their hands if they would support funding TOPS at its current level. All three candidates raised their hands. 

“We would do everything we can to protect those (TOPS) scholarships,” said Rispone.

Edwards said he would support funding TOPS at its highest level.

“If someone goes out of state for college, there is less of a chance they will ever come back,” Edwards said.

Abraham said Edwards was the only governor that actually cut TOPS, which elicited some brief applause from the crowd.

Abraham said Louisiana students are leaving the state in large numbers and that he would support T.O.P.S. to help combat that.

“Unfortunately now it’s even tired, where it’s not as high as it probably should be,” Abraham said. He highlighted the issue that Louisiana students are leaving the state to go to college out-of-state.

The follow-up question was about the growing cost that TOPS costs the state and the growing number of students using the program.

“We have to make sure that we’re running our education system more effectively and more efficient,” Rispone said. “We have to do some things different.”

7:20 p.m.

The next question surrounded gun control in Louisiana. Currently, state law does not require background checks for those buying firearms.

The question asked if candidates would support a state law that requires background checks for all private sales of firearms.

“We have to get to the root cause of why we are in this violent society,” Abraham said. “The Second Amendment is self-explanatory.”

Edwards pointed to his hunting background and said he believes in the Second Amendment. Edwards said he doesn’t support further background checks on sales of firearms, but stated commercial sales should require background checks. 

“I’m going to always defend our second amendment rights,” Rispone said. “I will stand behind the Second Amendment.”

7:15 p.m.

Abraham said he would “absolutely” cut taxes if he were governor.

“We have the highest sales tax in the country and that’s why we do not have the jobs,” Abraham said.

Edwards pointed to the state’s investment in education, with a pay-raise for teachers and support for higher education. 

Edwards was asked if he would cut taxes in a different area.

“What we don’t want to do is go back to cutting higher education,” Edwards said.

When asked if he would cut taxes, Rep. Abraham responded “Absolutely.”

Edwards said the state’s economy is the tenth-fastest growing economy in the nation.

Rispone said he would cut taxes as governor. He said he believes the state has a spending problem.

7:10 p.m.

The candidates were next asked about the state's transition from a deficit to a surplus. “Is it time to cut the burden on Louisiana taxpayers?” was asked to the candidates for the second question.

7:06 p.m.

The first question asked the candidates about the recent rise in vaping-related deaths and illnesses and if they would consider banning flavored e-cigarettes as governor. Abraham began the evening by sending prayers for the three LSU students who have died in the last two weeks.

7:04 p.m.

And we're off! The crowd cheered as candidates entered the stage. The first question is about e-cigarettes. 

 6:50 p.m.

The first two sections of the theatre are full, including a VIP section, media section and sections for supporters of each candidate. Students occupy the seats in the back of the theatre.

LSU President F. King Alexander welcomed the debate attendees and thanked the Manship School and Nexstar Media for hosting the debate. 

“LSU is an essential part of our state’s identity,” Alexander said in a welcome address to the crowd.

6:30 p.m.

It's debate night in Louisiana!

LSU's Manship School of Communication and Nextstar Media Group host the first debate of Louisiana's governor's race tonight at 7 p.m. in the LSU Student Union. Candidates include current Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican challengers U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone.

The Reveille will have live coverage throughout the debate on social media and in this live file. Check back for updates.

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