Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards fell short of an outright victory in the state's "jungle primary" Saturday.
Edwards, who hoped to gather more than 50 percent of the vote, was forced into a runoff by ultra-conservative construction tycoon Eddie Rispone, who reportedly spent $8 million of his own money on the race and styles himself a Trump-style outsider who will shake up state government.
Trump appeared at a rally in Lake Charles on the eve of the election and took credit for Rispone's showing. In a tweet, Trump outlandishly claimed that Edwards was favored by 66 percent of the voters before his appearance. The Advocate Times-Picayune reported that Trump's visit boosted voter turnout in rural parishes.
With many residents lacking health insurance, those parishes ignored Edwards expanding Medicaid in the state under Obamacare. Rispone claimed he won't rescind the Medicaid expansion.
Many urban Democrats stayed home. Lamar White Jr. in a comprehensive analysis on his excellent Bayou Brief online news site, said that the Orleans Parish turnout was 38.4 percent. He cited the collapse Saturday of the Hard Rock hotel under construction on New Orleans' Canal Street, which resulted in two deaths. Edwards had scheduled a campaign rally in New Orleans, but turned his attention to coordinating with rescue workers.
Edwards' support among Democratic women was hurt by his approval of the state's harsh abortion law. Women turning against Edwards is self-defeating; Rispone has more conservative abortion views than Edwards.
White's Pelican Brief article raises hope that Edwards will win the election. A total of 70 percent of voters went for candidates other than Rispone, who had little statewide recognition before spending millions on the campaign He has already used his attack ads against Edwards, White noted.
In another distressing outcome, residents of southeastern Baton Rouge voted to form their own city, to be called St. George. The area is one of the most affluent in the city, with a strong tax base. The movement to form a new city began several years ago, over unhappiness with public schools. The proposal failed several times to get on the ballot, at last winning enough petition signatures for an election, in which only residents of the area participated.
The call for better schools, less taxation and "local control" masked the racism behind the move. The St. George area has a white majority, dismayed at increasing black control of city-parish politics.
The city of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish merged their governments decades ago, and the parish apparently will still provide police and other services. In a curious anti-democratic requirement, the governor will appoint St. George's mayor and council. It was unclear whether municipal elections eventually will be held. Another question will how much of the area's taxes will go to the parish government.
Unlike cities like Atlanta, Baton Rouge's southside is its most prosperous. Home to the the city's petro-chemical plants, the northside has long been neglected. With the St. George breakaway, poverty-ridden North Baton Rouge will receive even fewer resources.
Rispone's election will be as much of a disaster for Louisiana as Trump's has been for the nation. Perhaps voters will remember Bobby Jindal's destructive administration. But Louisiana has an unlimited capacity for self-destruction.