JBE lademos endorsement

Gov. John Bel Edwards accepts the Louisiana Democratic Party's endorsement in his bid for a second term during a Democratic State Central Committee meeting at the State Capitol on Saturday, March 9, 2019.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has accepted his party's endorsement for a second term in office, as he attempts to retain his position as a Democratic governor in an otherwise Republican-dominated state.

The Democratic State Central Committee met at the State Capitol on Saturday to make the endorsement, which was expected, official after several members praised Edwards' first term in office.

“I could go on and on about this governor and the great things he’s done for the state of Louisiana,” said Arlanda Williams, a DSCC member from Houma.

Two Republicans, Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham of Alto, have so far announced plans to challenge Edwards in this fall's election. Others could enter the race ahead of the August qualifying deadline. The Louisiana GOP has not endorsed a candidate in the race to date, but has repeatedly made note of the "two great candidates" in official statements on the election.

“We did all of these things by working together, and we did all of these things, where possible at least, through bipartisanship,” he said. “The question for Louisiana is, in light of all of this progress, in light of the momentum that I’m talking about, in light of the fact that we are so much better off than we were four years ago, are we going to continue along our current path towards even more opportunity for prosperity for all of Louisiana or are we going to go back to the Jindal years?”

Both Abraham and Rispone have challenged Edwards' record. The state sales tax rate was 4 percent when he took office and temporarily increased to 5 percent to cover a state budget shortfall. It's now at 4.45 percent — nearly half a penny higher than when Edwards took office.

"Louisiana’s economy isn’t doing very well under his administration, and the only thing growing in Louisiana is our taxes!" the Louisiana Republican Party said in a recent statement on a business summit that the governor's office hosted.

Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South and the only Democrat currently holding state-wide office in Louisiana. The Louisiana race already has been identified by both Democrats and Republicans on the national level as a priority for 2019, when fewer gubernatorial elections are held. Edwards is the only incumbent Democrat in the country running for governor this cycle.

Edwards, a Catholic who opposes abortion and is a pro-Second Amendment military veteran, has faced criticism that he still represents a party that has more liberal views on those issues.

Asked if he feels pressure to distance himself from the more liberal national Democratic Party platform, Edwards said he isn't surprised opponents would link him to views that he doesn't share.

"I just need to run on my record and who I am," he said. "People see me for who I am."

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.