BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards officially kicked off his re-election bid Tuesday with an online video that not only touts his performance, but also warns he’ll be a target of multimillion-dollar attack campaigns.
Edwards is seeking a second term as the only Democratic governor in the Deep South. He faces two Republican challengers on the Oct. 12 ballot: U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone, a long-time GOP donor.
“My opponents and the special interest groups supporting them will spend millions of dollars attacking me and my record with partisan talking points, distortions and outright lies,” Edwards says. “But we must never forget what their biggest and most sincere complaint is: They aren’t happy with where we are today, because they preferred where we were three years ago.”
In the three-minute video , Edwards returns to a theme that is becoming central to his campaign, saying Louisiana is better off than when he took office in 2016. He said the state’s budget has stabilized through taxes he supported, the uninsured rate has fallen under his Medicaid expansion program and Louisiana’s economy is on the upswing.
He pledged to keep pushing legislation to raise Louisiana’s minimum wage and enact new equal pay laws, bills the majority-GOP Legislature has rejected three years in a row.
“The people of Louisiana know we’ve come too far to turn back now. We have a real opportunity to continue building a Louisiana that is as good as its people,” the governor says.
Republicans counter that Edwards taxed state residents too heavily, the Medicaid growth is unsustainable and Louisiana’s unemployment rate remains among the highest in the nation. In a response statement, Abraham said Edwards engineered “the largest tax increase in state history” and oversees “one of the weakest economies” in the nation.
“If he’s bragging about those as first-term achievements, I’d hate to see what the next four years would look like,” Abraham said.
Edwards repeats a questionable claim in his re-election video, saying the state cut taxes last year by $600 million. But that depends on which starting point is used for comparison. During the governor’s entire tenure, he and lawmakers raised taxes to patch holes in the budget.
A temporary 1 percent state sales tax passed in Edwards’ first year in office was due to expire last year, but lawmakers and the governor instead renewed 0.45 percent of the expiring tax until mid-2025. Edwards suggests the reduction in the rate was a tax cut, but without action from the governor and lawmakers, that tax would have disappeared entirely.
John Kay, with the Louisiana chapter of conservative organization Americans for Prosperity, slammed Edwards’ tax claim Tuesday on Twitter: “This is a lie.”
Under the tax changes made during Edwards’ three years in office, Louisiana ended the last two budget years with surpluses after nearly a decade of repeated financial gaps. Edwards credits “honest budgeting.” But while some Republican lawmakers voted with Edwards, conservative GOP legislators said Edwards didn’t do enough to lessen government spending. They offered few specifics during debate, however, about where they’d make deep cuts to balance the budget.
Edwards’ campaign said the governor intends a state tour as part of the official campaign launch, though no schedule was immediately released.