Though Gov. John Bel Edwards carried East Baton Rouge Parish in Saturday’s runoff election by a roughly two-to-one margin—besting challenger Eddie Rispone 66% to 34%—Rispone handily won in the city of St. George, beating Edwards 53% to 47%, according to an analysis of the 75 St. George precincts.
That’s not particularly surprising. East Baton Rouge is nearly 50% black, and black voters tend to favor Democratic candidates. St. George, on the other hand, is 88% white and skews conservative.
What is somewhat surprising, is that Rispone’s margin in St. George wasn’t bigger, political pollster Bernie Pinsonat says.
“Rispone underperformed with white voters,” Pinsonat says. “It’s not a surprise he won St. George. It’s a surprise he didn’t do better there.”
Pinsonat blames, in part, Rispone’s out-of-state campaign team for failing to help Rispone connect more effectively with voters.
“When you’re running for governor, it’s about personality and how you appear,” Pinsonat says. “Eddie had an outside campaign team but Louisiana is complicated. Outsiders don’t understand that. He wasn’t an effective candidate. He didn’t excite people.”
Still, Rispone won 49% of the vote statewide and in East Baton Rouge carried some St. George precincts by a nearly four-to-one margin.
Rispone did best in the far south and eastern parts of St. George. He carried one Woodlawn precinct by 80%. Edwards, on the other hand, carried precincts on the western side of St. George like Drusilla and Jefferson Terrace.
Those patterns mirror the results of the October election to incorporate St. George, in which voters in the southeastern parts of the proposed city favored incorporation while those on the western side were more likely to oppose it.
St. George organizers on their Facebook page had urged citizens in the days leading up to the election to support Rispone. Though the future of the new city is on hold at the moment, while opponents challenge the incorporation vote in court, the assumption is that a conservative governor would ultimately be easier for organizers to work with, particularly in appointing an interim government and supporting legislation for a transition district.
Edwards vetoed a bill last summer that would have established the framework for creating a St. George transition district, though in the days following the October incorporation vote he issued a statement saying he would work with the new city on appointing officials and figuring out next steps.
Pinsonat doesn’t think Edwards will be a hindrance the future of St. George.
“Only the courts can stop it and eventually they’ll come around,” he says. “As for legislation, the Legislature will back St. George because it’s two-thirds Republican.”