Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards knew he was entering the governor’s office in crisis mode, inheriting a massive financial mess when his term began a year ago—if only that was the sole crisis to cross his desk before his first anniversary.
As The Associated Press reports, the Democrat, who won office with 56% of the vote, got more tragedy and upheaval than many governors see in their full tenure.
Two floods hit the state in March and August, killing 13 people in all, wrecking tens of thousands of homes and causing billions of dollars in damage. The shooting of Alton Sterling, a black man, by white police officers in Baton Rouge triggered protests and unease in July, followed fewer than two weeks later by the ambush-style killings of three law enforcement officers in the city.
And those financial problems were more troubling than expected, with Louisiana sliding into a recession and the shortfalls left by former Gov. Bobby Jindal far deeper than estimated. Lawmakers spent a record 19 consecutive weeks in session last year, passing an estimated $1.6 billion in taxes and fees to fill gaps.
As Edwards reaches his one-year anniversary Wednesday, voters think the governor has handled the crises well, giving him strong favorability numbers in recent polls.
He called his first year challenging but rewarding.
“If you say you would have done nothing differently, that wouldn’t register as quite an honest assessment because there are always lessons learned. But I will tell you I’m very proud of the work that we’ve been able to do under difficult circumstances,” he said.
Edwards, though, has a minefield of problems ahead that could test those approval ratings.
More budget cuts loom as Louisiana struggles with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and oil price declines. He remains at odds with House Republican leaders over plans for tax reform. And a looming decision from the U.S. Justice Department on its civil rights investigation into Sterling’s shooting could bring new upheaval in Baton Rouge.