NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As qualifying for the election nears, Governor John Bel Edwards’ statewide campaign bus tour brought him to New Orleans Monday (July 8), where dozens of enthusiastic supporters showed up to greet Edwards.
Edwards, a Democrat, touted the teacher pay raise he won during the recent legislative session, as well as Medicaid expansion and other areas where he believes the state has progressed under his watch. He also criticized his Republican predecessor, former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
"Either we’re going to stay on the road that we’re on, to more opportunity and more prosperity, or we’re going to get right back in the ditch because the two folks running against me, they already said they like my predecessor, they like the way things were in 2015. By the way, I don’t think they can sell that to the people of Louisiana,” Edwards said to the crowd.
Edwards also released his first TV campaign ad.
In it, Edwards takes aim at Jindal.
“Four years ago Bobby Jindal left Louisiana in crisis,” the ad says. “But under Gov. Edwards’ leadership we’ve turned that deficit into a surplus.”
Two Republicans want to unseat Edwards who is the only Democratic governor in the deep-south.
Congressman Ralph Abraham said in a tweet Edwards lied to the public during his 2015 campaign for governor when he said he would not raise taxes.
And in a campaign ad, Abraham touts his own political conservatism.
"Since I was first elected, I have stood up for conservative Louisiana values. I supported President Trump from Day One, and I still do,” he said in the ad.
The other Republican candidate, Businessman Eddie Rispone, also a Republican, attacked Edwards in a Monday morning tweet, saying Louisiana is “dead last” due to Edwards “failed leadership.”
And in a new web ad, Rispone also praised President Donald Trump, a Republican, who won Louisiana during the last presidential contest.
"I think Louisiana needs to follow suit with what’s going on with our president. We just have to support him in every way we can and be outspoken about it,” Rispone said in the ad.
Also on the ballot is Gary Landrieu, who is running for governor as an independent.
In a recent ad campaign, Landrieu stressed his anti-illegal immigration stance.
“When I’m your governor, I’m going to remove all illegals from our welfare system, then I’m going to round them up and send them back to their home countries,” Landrieu said in the TV spot.
On tax hikes and criticism from his challengers, Edwards points to the bi-partisan legislative support the taxes received.
"We worked with the legislature in a balanced way to achieve a balanced budget and that involved revenue, it involved cuts and it involved savings,” Edwards said.
FOX 8 political analyst Mike Sherman said the campaign is intensifying.
"Some elections are marathons, this one's a sprint. It's going to be a one-month sprint to qualifying and then just a couple more months until the election,” Sherman said.
Sherman added that as a pro-life and pro-Second Amendment Democrat, Edwards silenced some arguments against him.
"He has taken off the table some of those threshold issues, like abortion and gun rights, and he’s now having a conversation on more generic campaign issues like economic development and health care,” Sherman said.
While New Orleans is a Democratic-stronghold, Edwards said his message remains the same regardless of which part of the state the campaign finds him.
“My message doesn’t change regardless of where I go. I talk about the things that have made Louisiana better under my leadership,” Edwards said. “Making sure that people know that we moved from the biggest deficit in the state to surpluses, that we’ve turned the corner, we’re actually investing in critical priorities like education again.”
Sherman said Edwards, who recently signed a strong anti-abortion law, must hold on to his Democratic support and voters in the middle of the political spectrum.
“His path to victory clearly runs right up the middle. He’s got to find a way of keeping liberal Democrats on his side while continuing to get support from that very precious middle that got him elected just four years ago,” Sherman said.
Qualifying for the election begins August 6 and the election is October 12.