NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE)-With early voting underway for the Nov.16 gubernatorial runoff, the two candidates met with supporters in the New Orleans area on Monday (Nov. 4).
Republican Eddie Rispone made a morning stop in Kenner to meet with a group of supporters.
Rispone said he is the best candidate to create more jobs in the state.
"I started with three people in my living room, we've created a company and 30 years later we're employing almost 4,000 families. I understand about job creation,” said Rispone.
Shortly after noon, Governor John Bel Edwards, the Democratic incumbent, met with dozens of young professionals in the city of New Orleans.
Edwards said his campaign strategy is to continue to work hard to get his message out that Louisiana is much better off since he became governor in 2016.
"Our state was deep in the ditch when [Gov.] Bobby Jindal left office with a largest budget deficit in our history. We are finally back to investing in our people, first new pay raise for teachers in 10 years,” said Edwards.
Rispone recently attacked Edwards, saying he has hurt the reputation of the respected West Point Military Academy which Edwards attended. When asked about calls for him to apologize for the statement, Rispone defended his comments and did not apologize.
"Look, I love veterans, I support veterans. What we have is a liberal trial lawyer that would do anything, say anything to be elected. That was the point there when they asked me about it,” said Rispone.
Edwards, who got a law degree after leaving the Army, said he is disappointed that Rispone has thrust partisan politics onto the military.
“I think it’s unfortunate and the fact of the matter is, he didn’t serve. He had an opportunity to, he chose to go to LSU rather than go to the Army,” said Edwards. “I will tell you that I've heard from a lot of veterans around the state of Louisiana who are none too pleased that he choose to go there and that he has not since he made the initial statement decided that he needed to retract it, or offer some explanation for it."
FOX 8 political analyst Mike Sherman weighed in on the dynamics of the race in the waning days of the campaign.
"As we head into the final couple of weeks of this campaign we're looking for the issues that define the race, whether or not to host a constitutional convention has become a surprising issue that has divided the candidates. The second is this squabble that broke out over Rispone's comments over the governor's service at West Point and we’ll see that escalate,” said Sherman.
Rispone said if elected he wants a constitutional convention to overhaul the state’s constitution.
In speaking to reporters in Kenner, Rispone dismissed speculation that he wants to get rid of the popular homestead exemption. "No, that’s fear-mongering. We're not going to do away with the homestead exemption. We're not going to do away with publicly funded education, we're not going to do away with people's retirement plans,” Rispone said.
Edwards maintains that a constitutional convention is not needed given that voters periodically tweak the document by approving specific amendments. And he said opening the constitution to broad revision could prove dangerous.
"He can't articulate with any specificity what he wants to change in the constitution, so it would be very dangerous to have a constitutional convention when you know that there are many things in the constitution just the way we want it. For example, supplemental pay for our first responders,” Edwards said to members of the media during his campaign stop.
Both candidates hope to get as many of their supporters to vote early this week as possible.
"It gives me the opportunity to get the message out for early voting. We have to be supportive of Donald Trump,” said Rispone, who has made his support of Trump a central piece of his campaign.
Edwards said he is encouraged by the first two days of early voting.
"I have a really good sense of what's happening on the ground right now and I just like the way this race is shaping up. I like the way early voting is going,” Edwards said.
Orleans Parish Registrar Sandra Wilson said enthusiasm for early voting for the runoff seems more robust compared to the primary election.
"It's been very busy, the lines are moving very quickly at all of the locations. It’s a little bit slower in Algiers, but city hall, Lake Vista and New Orleans East have been very busy,” said Wilson.
Sherman said turnout is the candidates’ focus at this juncture.
"What we’re seeing more than anything is a fight over turnout. Folks going to their bases to try to rile them up,” said Sherman.