John Bel Edwards

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John Bel Edwards

Incumbent
Assumed office 
January 11, 2016
Preceded by Bobby Jindal

Minority Leader of the
Louisiana House of Representatives
In office
January 9, 2012 – December 10, 2015
Preceded by Jane Holland Smith
Succeeded by Harlie Eugene "Gene" Reynolds, Jr.

Louisiana State Representative for District 72 (Tangipahoa Parish)
In office
January 14, 2008 – December 10, 2015
Preceded by Robby Carter
Succeeded by Robby Carter

Born September 16, 1966
Amite, Tangipahoa Parish
Louisiana
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Donna Hutto Edwards
Children Three children
Residence Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Alma mater U.S. Military Academy

Louisiana State University Law Center

Occupation Lawyer

United States Army captain (1988-1996)

Religion Roman Catholic

John Bel Edwards (born September 16, 1966) is the Democratic governor of his native Louisiana, who won reelection in a runoff contest held on November 16, 2019. By 40,000 votes, he defeated the Republican choice, Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone.

Background

A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and an attorney, Edwards was state representative for District 72 in Tangipahoa Parish, one of the Florida Parishes east of Baton Rouge. He is a long-term supporter and former delegate for former U.S. President Barack H. Obama and the party's 2016 nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton, though Edwards proclaims a pro-life position on abortion. His runoff opponent in 2015, then U.S. Senator David Vitter, failed to make Edwards' connection to Obama and the Clintons register with a majority of voters.

Gubernatorial matters

After Edwards handily defeated him for governor, Vitter announced that he would not seek a third term in the Senate in 2016, and the position went to Republican John Neely Kennedy, the former state treasurer.

In the general election held on November 21, 2015, Edwards won his first term as governor by defeating Vitter, 646,865 (56.1 percent) to 505,933 (43.9 percent).[1] On January 11, 2016, Edwards succeeded the term-limited Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, who had dropped his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

As governor-elect, Edwards named term-limited Democratic state Senator Ben Nevers of Bogalusa as his chief of staff. Laura Leach of Lake Charles, wealthy wife of former U.S. Representative Anthony Claude "Buddy" Leach, and African-American Mayor Jamie Mayo of Monroe joined his transition team.

Governor Edwards pushed for various tax increases in an effort to close a large state operating deficit. One of his press spokespersons is Jim Beam of Lake Charles, who has argued for the need of greater state revenues. The push for taxes has brought the governor in repeated conflict with outgoing Republican House Speaker Taylor Barras of New Iberia, but Barras is expected to be succeeded in 2020 as Speaker by Republican Sherman Mack.

In June 2018, Senator John Kennedy called upon Governor John Bel Edwards to step down from his position and turn the office over to Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, a Moderate Republican. Kennedy is critical of Edwards' repeated calling of special legislative sessions to obtain more tax increases to close a state budget deficit. Kennedy maintains spending must first be reduced before higher taxes should be considered. Edwards' office called Kennedy's demand "absurd." At issue is the yet unapproved renewal of a "temporary" one-cent state sales tax.[2] Kennedy's opposition to Edwards drew the scrutiny of the liberal Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper, which claimed the U.S. senator is using his office as "a platform for politically absurd suggestions" and should instead "focus on what is really important to those that elected him. The U.S. Senate, Kennedy's ostensible workplace, hasn't exactly been a model of accomplishment lately. If the senator is worried about the lack of political leadership these days, he should start by looking into the mirror."[3]

Ultimately after seven special sessions since 2016, enough Republican members of the House, such as Moderate Republican Rob Shadoin of Ruston, who left the legislature to join the Edwards administration, and the more conservative Frank A. Hoffmann of Monroe, term-limited in 2020, capitulated to approve a .45 percent of the expiring one-cent sales tax. When rounded, the .45 becomes the same .5 percent presented as Edwards' final offer.[4] The measure heads for certain passage in the state Senate, which though nominally Republican is run by Moderate Republican and former long-term Democrat John Alario, the Senate president who has long advocated for tax increases as well. Alario is expected to be succeeded as Senate President in 2020 by the Republican Page Cortez of Lafayette. Governor Edwards also obtained additional energy revenues in 2019 and funds from the taxation of goods and services sold on-line, as permitted through a United States Supreme Court ruling.

Reelection in 2019

Two Republicans, Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone and U.S. Representative Ralph Abraham of Louisiana's 5th congressional district challenged Edwards in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 12, 2019. Rispone edged out Abraham by just over 50,000 votes and faced Edwards in the general election showdown. Edwards polled exactly 626,000 votes (46.6 percent) in the 2019 primary,[5] some 20,000 fewer votes than he had received is 2015 runoff contest with Vitter.

Also on the statewide ballot on November 16, 2019, was the race for secretary of state between Republican incumbent Kyle Ardoin and his second-time Democrat opponent, Gwen Collins-Greenup, a court administrator from Clinton in East Feliciana Parish.

Is Edwards "pro-life"?

In the spring of 2020, Edwards gained repeated national television exposure regarding how hard Louisiana has been hit in the coronavirus pandemic, particularly New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Edwards issued a "stay-at-home" order, including churches, but he exempted abortion clinics from the order though he has long-claimed a "pro-life" position. When he ran for governor in 2015, he cut an advertisement explaining that he and his wife, Donna, had not aborted a child diagnosed as special-needs while still in the womb. He also signed in his first term an anti-abortion bill since held in abeyance by federal courts. The legislation had large bipartisan majorities in both houses of the legislature. With national aspirations presumably in his future, Edwards would be required to abandon any pretense of being opposed to abortion. Louisiana voters are mostly anti-abortion, but 51 percent in 2019 voted to give Edwards a second term. Edwards' comments on how the pandemic has impacted Louisiana motorists led Texas Governor Greg Abbott to halt Louisiana motorists from enetering Texas.[6]

References

  1. Results for Election Date: 11/21/2015. Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved on November 29, 2015.
  2. Elizabeth Crisp (June 12, 2018). Sen. John Kennedy: John Bel Edwards should resign; governor's office says that's 'absurd'. Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on June 13, 2018.
  3. Our Views: John Kennedy worried about lack of leadership? He should look into the mirror (commentary). Baton Rouge Advocate (June 12, 2018). Retrieved on June 13, 2018.
  4. Elizabeth Crisp (June 22, 2018). Deal brokered: Louisiana House advances sales tax bill; here are next steps. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on June 23, 2018.
  5. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 12, 2019.
  6. The Moon Griffon Show, April 6, 2020.