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John Bel Edwards: Louisiana’s 56th Governor

By Stephen Salopek

Louisiana voted Saturday to make state representative John Bel Edwards of Amite its 56th Governor. A Democrat, Edwards is the first of his party to be elected governor in the Deep South since Kathleen Blanco in 2004. ”This election shows us that the people of Louisiana, in a time of deep cynicism about our politics, and also about our future…have chosen hope over scorn, over negativity,” Edwards said during his victory speech Saturday. He defeated his opponent, Senator David Vitter by roughly 12 percentage points, a 56 to 44 percent victory according to the Times-Picayune. In the end it seemed Senator Vitter’s 2007 prostitution scandal and political affiliations with Governor Jindal are what turned people away, more than actual politics. During his concession speech, In front of family, friends and supporters, a defeated Vitter made an unexpected announcement. “I’ve reached my personal term limit” he said, “I am going to refocus on the important work of the United States Senate…but I am only going to be doing that for one more year through the end of this term.”

Vitter’s announcement came as a surprise to everyone; many had speculated earlier on that if Vitter were to lose he would simply try to remain Senator until he could run for Governor again, but Saturday night, he just seemed too tired of it all. Even Senator Bill Cassidy and Treasurer John Kennedy – Vitter’s close political allies – were blindsided by the move. The senate opening presents an opportunity for up and coming politicians on both sides of the aisle to gain some national credibility. Congressman Charles Boustany, Treasurer John Kennedy, Scott Angelle and Mayor Mitch Landrieu have entertained the notion of running for Vitter’s Senate seat.

As for the Governor-Elect, Edwards will be hitting the ground running following his inauguration. The promise to immediately expand Medicare coupled with having to address a projected billion dollar shortfall in 2016 (according to the Times-Picayune), all the while expanding the education bill for both elementary and higher education -as he promised- seems a near impossible feat. However, if he does manage to pull it off, then he will be well on his way to steering Louisiana towards a better future.

“I did not create this breeze of hope that’s rolling across our beautiful and blessed state. But I did catch it” Said Edwards to a revelrous crowd Saturday night, “…The people of Louisiana have chosen to believe we can do better, and by doing better we will be better. And I commit to you we will be better as a result of tonight.”

 

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