Edwards 2.jpg

Gov. John Bel Edwards rallies supporters in Monroe ahead of a campaign event by President Donald Trump on behalf of Edwards' Republican opponent for governor, Eddie Rispone, on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019.

MONROE – For the second time in his bid for reelection, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday found himself warding off a campaign stop by President Donald Trump for his Republican opponent Eddie Rispone, painting the event as a partisan effort to “prop up” Eddie Rispone and make the race about national issues.

Standing atop his well-worn stump next to his campaign RV, Edwards told a throng of supporters he will win the race by keeping the focus on state issues and that he expects Trump to promote falsehoods about him at the president’s rally Wednesday night a few miles away.

“Eddie (Rispone) knows he cannot win on the issues,” Edwards said. “He cannot win if this election is about Louisiana and what is best for our people. That's why he's trying to make this election about Washington, D.C. But you cannot serve as governor of the great state of Louisiana from Washington, D.C. Bobby Jindal tried that. And it nearly bankrupted our state.”

The event came hours before Trump was set to make his second trip to Louisiana to stump for Republicans in the governor’s race. The president made a trip to Lake Charles on the eve of the primary election where he endorsed both GOP candidates, Rispone and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, who came in third, missing a shot at the Nov. 16 runoff against Edwards.

The rally takes place in a key battleground in the race, in the heart of Abraham’s Congressional district, after an at-times rancorous intraparty primary battle between the two Republicans that left some Abraham allies bitter. 

Many of the supporters at Edwards’ rally waved anti-Trump signs and held flyers for an anti-Trump protest scheduled for later in the day. After hearing Edwards mention the president’s name, the crowd booed.

But Edwards, who is campaigning in a state that voted for Trump by a 20-point margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016, discouraged the boos and at times highlighted his working relationship with Trump, which includes nine visits to the White House during his tenure. He also noted his relationship with former President Barack Obama.

“We know the president's rally is about partisan politics,” Edwards said. “Rispone's a bad candidate. So his party is forced to call in the president to try to prop him up.”

“I believe my job as governor is to serve all the people of Louisiana to the best of my abilities,” he added.

Edwards has campaigned heavily in Abraham’s Congressional district since the primary in an effort to win the support of Abraham primary voters. Polls show Edwards and Rispone within the margin of error of each other.

After Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat, unseated Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in that state’s gubernatorial election Tuesday, Edwards suggested the results bode well for him, insisting the race in Louisiana will be decided on “Louisiana issues, not Washington, D.C. issues.” Trump also campaigned for Bevin in that race.

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com