Eddie Rispone

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Edward Lee "Eddie" Rispone

(Co-founder of Industrial
Specialty Contractors)

JFR Eddie-Rispone.jpg
Political party Republican gubernatorial candidate in Louisiana, 2019 (defeated by John Bel Edwards.

Born January 21, 1949
Place of birth missing

Resident of Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Spouse (1) Phyllis Rispone (died of cancer)

(2) Linda Lemoine Rispone
Children:
Seven children of both Eddie and Linda Rispone[1]

Edward Lee Rispone, known as Eddie Rispone (pronounced RISPONY) (born January 21, 1949),[2] is a businessman from the capital city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who was the Republican choice against Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, in the gubernatorial runoff election held on November 16, 2019. With 100 percent of the ballots counted, Edwards led Rispone by 40,341 votes. Edwards polled 774,469 votes (51 percent) to Rispone's 734,128 (49 percent). Only 50.7 percent of registered voters came to the polls, a smaller turnout than what Republicans needed from their base.[3] Moreover, it was a particular disheartening loss for state Republicans in that U.S. President Donald Trump had campaigned three times for the Republican candidates, including a final November 14 rally in Bossier City, which drew a large crowd.

In the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 12, 2019, Rispone edged out fellow Republican U.S. Representative Ralph Abraham of Louisiana's 5th congressional district, a medical doctor from Richland Parish. Edwards polled exactly 626,000 (46.6 percent) in the primary to Rispone's 368,318 (27.4 percent), and Abraham's 317,115 (23.6 percent). Voter turnout was just 45.3 percent.[4]

Background

Rispone and his brother in the late 1980s founded Industrial Specialty Contractors, which has grown into one of the largest such firms in the nation. The firm is a 15-time national award winner and has also received numerous local awards of excellence. Rispone has been since 1978 a promoter of workforce development. “Training is key to our community and to our companies. The better prepared our workforce is, the better our local companies perform," he said.[1]

In January 2018, Rispone established a non-profit organization called Baton Rouge Families First, which seeks to empower lower and middle-income families through the encouragement of "education reform, promoting quality jobs through proactive economic development" and support for "initiatives that strengthen the family structure.” The group was formed in direct challenge to another organization, Together Baton Rouge, a broad-based community organization that proposes public policies to assist the low-income population. Rispone said that Together Baton Rouge has failed to emphasize morals, virtues, independence, and family life—the bedrock of a sound society. Instead it seems to many Together Baton Rouge would rather divide the city using socialist, radical tactics and pushing a national agenda.”[5]

Political life

In 2014, Rispone was a prime mover behind the failed effort to incorporate the St. George community in East Baton Rouge Parish.[5] The incorporation, however, was approved five years later in the same election in which Rispone was placed in a runoff with Edwards. Supporters ofr incorporation polled 17,422 votes (54 percent) to 14,871 (46 percent).[4]

Republican state Senator Sharon Hewitt of Slidell in St. Tammany Parish had indicated that she too was considering a gubernatorial campaign but chose to run instead for reelection to the state Senate and potentially to seek to succeed Moderate Republican John Alario as the state Senate President. Hewitt vowed support for either Rispone or Abraham in the primary.[6]

Rispone said that he was prepared to spend at least $5 million, possibly $8 million, from his personal fortune to make the gubernatorial race. Though he lacks broad name recognition statewide, Rispone can take comfort that several previous governors, including John J. McKeithen, Buddy Roemer, Mike Foster, and even John Bel Edwards, entered their races in 1963, 1995, 1987, and 2015, respectively, without early name recognition. He could use the slogan, "Eddie Is Ready", which was formerly employed by Eddie Sapir, a New Orleans judge and city council member.[7] Journalist Stephen Sabludowsky wrote in analysis:

Might Rispone destroy Louisiana tradition and do a Trump pole-vault over the government-first service pit?

Perhaps. It won’t be easy. First, there will be competition from other Republicans. Also, John Bel Edwards is no pushover. According to Bernie Pinsonat’s recent poll, the current governor enjoys a 60 percent favorable score, despite having served during the worst budgetary meltdowns in decades and despite the other party hovering over, smelling blood.

Nonetheless, Eddie is ready, without government baggage and all.[7]

Campaign developments

On June 15, 2019, in an appearance in Iowa, Louisiana, before the Lake Charles-based Calcasieu Parish Republican Executive Committee, Rispone claimed that his business background would prove helpful in revitalizing the economy. He said that voters want Louisiana "to reach its full potential. They're tired of out-migration, taxes and not getting what they paid for … We need to do something totally different."[8]

The Republican State Executive Committee was initially expected to endorse a single candidate in the race against Edwards and to recommend that the unendorsed Republican candidate withdraw from the race. In a poll released by Representative Ralph Abraham, Rispone was running a distant third in the tabulation; the survey indicated a potential second race between Edwards, who tops the poll, and Abraham. Instead, Rispone outpolled Abraham, 27 to 24 percent, to gain the runoff berth.

On June 18, 2019, Rispone was asked on The Moon Griffon Show why he has not yet made many public appearances in his campaign considering that he lacks the name recognition needed to win. Rispone replied that he has been actively campaigning and believes that his appearances thus far have been effective.[9]Apparently, the state media initially ignored Rispone's candidacy.

In July 2019, Rispone aired an advertisement highly critical of leftist demonstrators in New Orleans who organized city-supported protests against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office at 1250 Poydras Streeet.[10]

In mid-September, Rispone launched a controversial ad in which he accused primary opponent Ralph Abraham of congressional disloyalty to U.S. President Donald Trump. Moon Griffon voiced immediate opposition to the Rispone advertising and endorsed Abraham as his preference for governor. Griffon said that Abraham supporters dissuade by Rispone's ad could well support the Democrat John Bel Edwards.[11]

On the eve of the primary, President Trump held a rally in Lake Charles to implore Louisiana Republicans to show up at the polls on October 12. Trump did not specifically endorse a candidate, but he said either Abraham or Rispone would be acceptable. Trump then campaigned twice for Rispone in Monroe and Bossier City prior to the runoff contest.

Post-mortem

In addition to the Edwards-Rispone gubernatorial contest, there was a second statewide runoff for Louisiana Secretary of State. Republican incumbent Kyle Ardoin handily defeated a former opponent, Gwen Collins-Greenup, a Democrat from East Feliciana Parish.

A month after his defeat, Rispone told Tyler Bridges, reporter for The Baton Rouge Advocate, that he was "very disappointed at the opportunity we missed. I’ve gotten over it. I’ve moved on. I’m trying to think about what I can do for our future for our state – workforce development and education.”[12] Rispone criticized Edwards for backing trial lawyers in demanding that coastal parishes file suit against oil and gas companies. Rispone also noted that Edwards had reduced a tax break program for heavy industry, including petrochemical projects.[12]

Rispone said that his doubts about Ralph Abraham as a rival Republican candidate nominee were fueled by Abraham's audition for support of the Republican donor Lane Grigsby of Baton Rouge. Rispone said that in the interview the two had with Grigsby that Abraham "didn’t know the state” and “fumbled around” answering questions. Grigsby finally told Abraham that he would not support him.[12] Moon Griffon said that he believes that Rispone's defeat occurred because of disaffected Abraham voters who were aghast at pre-primary advertising which cast Abraham in a false and unflattering depiction.[12]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Ashley Sexton Gordon. Eddie Rispone -- a person of character. Inregister.com. Retrieved on December 8, 2018.
  2. Eddie Risone. Mylife.com. Retrieved on December 8, 2018.
  3. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, November 16, 2019.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 12, 2019.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Stephanie Riegel (January 22, 2018). Eddie Rispone creates nonprofit to take on Together Baton Rouge. Retrieved on Dercember 10, 2018.
  6. Greg Hilburn (April 11, 2019). Sen. Hewitt won't run for Louisiana governor 'for now'. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on April 12, 2019.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Stephen Sabludowsky (December 5, 2018). Eddie Rispone's Ready for Governor, are Louisiana voters?. Bayoubuzz.com. Retrieved on December 8, 2018.
  8. John Guidroz (June 16, 2019). Abraham top choice in GOP straw poll​. Lake Charles American Press. Retrieved on June 18, 2019.
  9. The Moon Griffon Show, June 18, 2019.
  10. Rispone Fires Both Barrels At Left-Wing NOLA ICE Protesters. The Hayride (July 19, 2019). Retrieved on July 20, 2019.
  11. The Moon Griffon Show, September 17, 2019.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Tyler Bridges (December 14, 2019). Eddie Rispone opens up on Louisiana governor's race loss, return to normalcy: 'I've gotten over it'. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on December 17, 2019.