Gubernatorial debate 09.19.19

Eddie Rispone speaks during the Gubernatorial debate on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in the Student Union Theater.

The Louisiana governor’s race is heating up days away from election day on Oct. 12 with President Donald Trump holding a rally in Lake Charles on Friday.

“Going to Louisiana on Friday night for a big Republican Rally. Keep Democrat Governor Edwards under 50%, force a runoff, and have a great new Republican Governor! Voting on Saturday. Information for Rally to follow,” Trump tweeted.

Trump is expected to encourage rally attendees to support either businessman Eddie Rispone or U.S. Rep Ralph Abraham, both Republicans, to force a Nov. 16 runoff election against Democratic incumbent Gov John Bel Edwards.

Vice President Mike Pence held a Republican rally in Kenner last Friday, and Donald Trump Jr. held a rally in Lafayette on Monday. Pence and President Trump’s campaigning comes after recent tweets from the president criticized Edwards.

So far, a Sept. 26 poll from We Ask America has Edwards with 47%, Rispone with 23% and Abraham with 17%. Edwards did not seem surprised by Trump’s criticism despite having mentioned his desire to work with Trump.

“It was to be expected,” Edwards said afterward at an endorsement event. “The president is tweeting out of Washington. Washington is hyper-partisan. That’s the way they function.”

Gubernatorial Debate

Rep. Ralph Abraham speaks during the Gubernatorial debate on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in the Student Union Theater.

Rispone and Abraham have feuded in the weeks leading up to the election. Rispone aired an ad last month criticizing Abraham’s missed votes in Congress, his reneged promise to donate his congressional salary to charity and a 2016 statement Abraham made suggesting then-presidential candidate Trump should consider stepping down from the race after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was revealed.

Two weeks later, Abraham ran a counter-ad that rebutted Rispone’s claims and accused him of lying about Abraham’s record. Abraham defended his campaign’s decision to run the ad.

“It’s unfortunate that we had to devote time and resources rebutting blatant lies from my Republican opponent,” Abraham said in a statement to the Associated Press. “We will not launch personal attacks against my Republican opponent, but I will defend my conservative record and values.”

The two Republican candidates’ fighting has worried some party members with fears that it could hurt their campaigns and assist Edwards.

Meanwhile, two Republican groups ran ads criticizing Edwards for his actions following sexual harassment allegations against a former top aide, Johnny Anderson. Edwards hired Anderson despite previous sexual assault allegations from his time at Southern University. Then in 2017, an employee in Edwards’ office, Juanita Washington, accused Anderson of sexual assault. Anderson quickly resigned.

Gubernatorial Debate

Governor John Bel Edwards speaks during the Gubernatorial debate on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in the Student Union Theater.

Abraham brought up the incident at the gubernatorial debate hosted in the LSU Student Union Theater last month. Edwards said he believed Anderson was a good hire at the time because investigation into the complaints from Southern University found no wrongdoing. He added Anderson knew he would be fired if he did not resign, and he did not try to speak with Washington.

Louisiana’s early voting period was held from Sept. 28 to Oct. 5, and Louisiana voters turned out in record numbers. According to the Monroe News-Star, Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin reported 76,874 residents cast their votes on Saturday, Sept. 28, alone. This number is more than double the 37,708 residents who voted on the first day of the 2015 early voting period.

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