Louisiana reverses the red tide, elects Democratic governor | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Louisiana reverses the red tide, elects Democratic governor

Posted By on Sun, Nov 22, 2015 at 8:28 AM

click to enlarge LOUISIANA GOES BLUE: At least in the governor's race. - THE NEW ORLEANS ADVOCATE
  • The New Orleans Advocate
  • LOUISIANA GOES BLUE: At least in the governor's race.

You undoubtedly know by now that John Bel Edwards, a conservative Democrat, defeated Republican Sen. David Vitter in the race for Louisiana governor, with 56.1 percent of the vote. Louisiana in recent years has trended even more strongly  Republican than Arkansas.

Edwards did more than win. He drove Vitter out of politics. The loser announced Saturday night he'd not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate.

I'll leave it to Rep. Nate Bell of Arkansas (is there such as thing as an IINO, independent in name only, for someone who's a reliable Repblican vote?) for a relevant comment, in the form of a Luke Russet tweet he dug up and retweeted last night:

#Dems can win in the Deep South! So long as their candidate is a veteran who's basically a #GOP & the R is a paranoid prostitute patron

But a couple of things. Whore-mongering isn't the only sin that can be used effectively against a politician. Taking bribes — or the functional equivalent and abuse of public trust — sometimes can be costly. Character does count. Could Arkansas Republican Treasurer Dennis Milligan be re-elected today, for example?

And, sure, a Democrat of at least centrist stripe — think Mike Beebe — certainly has a better starting point than a pure liberal Democrat in Dixie. I understand why Conner Eldridge is tacking right in his Democratic race for U.S. Senate in Arkansas. But absent a diaper in incumbent Republican Sen. John Boozman's closet — and to date, Boozman is thoroughly unbesmirched by any personal foibles worse than charisma deficit — a Democrat ultimately must do something to differentiate himself.

John Bel Edwards DOES appear to qualify as a Democrat in several respects. He had friends in organized labor. He has not been warm to the billionaires' effort to take over public schools. As a legislator, Edwards advocated that Louisiana take advantage of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. He's seen as a threat to the corporate welfare the business community enjoys through tax credits and other giveaways. (This last is something even some pure conservatives don't favor.) He WAS pro-gun and anti-abortion. But he also favored decreased penalties for marijuana possession and was endorsed by a group pushing for a cleaner environment. And he supported a bill to prohibit transporting dogs in the open bed of pickup trucks on interstate highways.

So, sure. David Vitter was a particularly ripe target. But Edwards had at least some appeal in his own right, certainly of the sort that energized base voters on the Democratic side.

UPDATE: Vox lists five things worth knowing about the Louisiana race. One key element I should have mentioned: The Louisiana voter base is 33 percent black (against 14 or so in Arkansas). With a modestly growing Latino population, a victory is possible with a much narrower slice of white voters.

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