'You’re crazy if you believe that': John Bel Edwards takes remarkable journey to improbable landslide in governor's race _lowres

Louisiana Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards holds up an umbrella as he reacts with supporters at his election night watch party in New Orleans, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. Edwards won the runoff election for Louisiana governor Saturday, defeating the once-heavy favorite, Republican David Vitter, and handing the Democrats their first statewide victory since 2008. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

National Republicans say they aren’t taking this fall’s U.S. Senate race in Louisiana lightly, following last year’s election victory for Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

USA Today reports that U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, described the open Senate race here as “a little less-than-solid” Republican.

“The Democrats and Republicans just proved ... that a Democrat can, under the right circumstances, win and so we’re mindful of that,” Wicker told the national newspaper. “I am mindful that we have to take care of business, and I think if we take care of business in Louisiana it is likely to go Republican.”

Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter announced last fall that he wouldn’t seek re-election after losing the governor’s race to Edwards, a state Representative from Amite.

That’s opened the floodgates to a host of candidates seeking to replace him -- and the cutoff to qualify is still several months away.

Republicans running include Congressmen Charles Boustany and John Fleming; State Treasurer John Kennedy; former Congressman Joseph Cao and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness.

Democrats running include Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, New Orleans lawyer Caroline Fayard and Lafayette businessman Joshua Pellerin.

USA Today notes that the Louisiana seat is one of 24 that the GOP is trying to defend this fall.

The election in Louisiana will take place Nov. 8, with all candidates appearing on the ballot under the state’s “jungle primary” system. A Dec. 10 runoff will take place between the top two vote-getters if no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round.

Edwards, who was sworn in Jan. 11, was thought to be a long-shot candidate for governor when he announced as a little-known state House member that he would be taking on presumptive frontrunner David Vitter.

Democratic power players even reportedly tried to convince Edwards to ditch the race mere months before the primary so that a more moderate Republican would win instead of hardline conservative Vitter. Edwards went on to best Vitter 56 percent to 44 percent on Election Day.

The win made Edwards the only Democratic governor in the Deep South and the only Democratic state-wide office holder in Louisiana.

The state Democratic Party, meanwhile, has said it’s hoping to replicate the win in the Senate race.

Edwards has announced that he’s backing Campbell’s run, and both Edwards and Campbell have stressed the need for the party to rally behind one candidate.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of Louisiana state government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .