Graves wins 6th; Edwards concedes _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Newly elected 6th Congressional District Rep. Garret Graves hugs a supporter, after his victory speech at his election night party at II City Plaza on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Baton Rouge. Graves, a Republican, won the 6th District Congressional seat over four-term Gov. Edwin Edwards, a Democrat, in the runoff.

First-time candidate and former Jindal aide Garret Graves defeated four-term former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards in the race for the Baton Rouge-based 6th Congressional District seaat.

Graves jumped to an early lead and The Associated Press called the election moments after the Secretary of State began counting after polls closed.

With 574 of the 575 precincts reporting Graves, a Republican from Baton Rouge, had 139,130 voters or 62.51 percent of those cast. Four-term former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, a Democrat from Gonzales, had 83,437 votes tallied.

The Associated Press called the race for Graves at 8:34 p.m. Gov. Bobby Jindal congratulated Graves, his former aide.

The 13-parish district extends from southeast Baton Rouge to the suburbs west of New Orleans and through the bayou communities into parts of Houma.

It was open this time because 6th District U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy opted to challenge U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

Edwards said his loss wasn’t unexpected as the national and the state trend is towards conservatism. He said he, Mary Landrieu and Jamie Mayo were three Democrats who “ran into a red tide.”

“This state has joined the others,” Edwards said in his concession speech less than hour after votes started being counted. “I bow to that.”

Edwards said he would not run for public office again, then added “never say Never.”

“I am no longer a public figure and do not expected to be one,” he said, then paraphrased The “Grapes of Wrath,” saying where ever there is hunger and injustice, “I’ll be there.”

Graves tweeted his thanks and told his supporters that he won’t go to Washington and become part of the problem.

Graves, 42, and Edwards, 87, squared off in Saturday’s runoff election after they emerged as the leading vote-getters in the 12-person primary field on Nov. 4.

Edwards finished first in that contest, with 30 percent of the vote compared to 27 percent for Graves.

His primary win was fueled by his base of loyal supporters from traditional Democrats and by an inordinate number of GOP contenders who divided 64 percent of the initial vote.

But the 6th District is considered one of the most GOP-leaning in the nation, which meant that the ex-governor always faced a massive challenge in the runoff to get to Congress.

“It is a safe Republican district,” said Albert Samuels, chairman of the political science and criminal justice departments at Southern University,

Robert Hogan, a professor of political science at LSU, said Louisiana’s GOP-dominated Legislature solidified the district for Republicans when boundaries were redrawn in 2010.

“All he has to do is act like a congressman, and things are going to go his way without any difficulty,” Hogan said two days before the ballots were cast.

Even before Satuday’s balloting, Graves was believed to have already landed his U.S. House committee assignments — Transportation and Natural Resources.

The 13-parish district extends from southeast Baton Rouge to the suburbs west of New Orleans and through the bayou communities into parts of Houma.

It was open this time because 6th District U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy opted to challenge U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

The race drew national attention, mostly because of the presence of Edwards, who served nearly a decade in federal prison after being convicted of racketeering.

His career included three terms in Congress — representing the old 7th Congressional District — followed by 16 years as governor over three decades.

Graves portrayed himself as a newcomer to elected politics but with enough government experience to get things done if he was sent to Washington.

He is a former aide to Jindal and, most notably, oversaw the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Edwards presented himself as a familiar figure to voters, political warts and all, and one who offered a moderate approach to getting things done in the GOP-dominated U.S. House.

Joshua Stockley, associate professor of political science at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, said the former governor faced many of the same problems as Democrats nationally.

“The most significant aspect of the electorate in 2014 is the unpopularity of President Barrack Obama,” Stockley said.

Stockley said Edwards’ prison record, white voters fleeing the Democrat Party in the South and an economic recovery that many voters have trouble seeing also worked against his bid for an upset.

The contest featured sharp differences on key issues.

Graves said he opposed a hike in the minimum wage.

Edwards said he favored a gradual increase to $10.20 per hour, up from $7.25 per hour now.

Graves said he backs the traditional definition of marriage — one man and one woman.

Edwards said he did, too, but also backs same-sex civil unions with the financial benefits that married couples enjoy.

Graves blasted the 2010 Affordable Care Act — widely known as “Obamacare” — and said it should be replaced with a law that protects patients’ relationships with their doctors, allows for more investment in health savings accounts and allows consumers to keep their coverage when they change jobs.

Edwards said good parts of the law should be retained and others adjusted.

The runoff was a low-key affair with just one debate.

Graves’ campaign fundraising and spending far out-distanced that of Edwards — $1.4 million to $385,000 as of the latest federal reports. Graves continued a steady diet of television ads throughout the runoff while Edwards only went on the air in the final days. The Edwards ads attempted to tie Graves to the unpopular policies of his former boss Jindal and alleged that relatives benefited financially through contracts during his state government tenure.

Just before Saturday’s vote, Graves-financed campaign fliers detailed Edwards’ federal conviction, said he had a “legacy of scandals and corruption” and blamed him for “failed policies that have placed Louisiana at the bottom of every good list and at the top of every bad list.”

Check back later with The Advocate for more details.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter @WillSentell. Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the state capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at