JBE at Press Club 102819

Gov. John Bel Edwards prepares Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, to address the Press Club of Baton Rouge. Republican opponent, Eddie Rispone, did not show up.

Gov. John Bel Edwards appearing alone before the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday, asked “Where’s Eddie”? And what are his plans for Louisiana?

Republican Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, who is challenging Edwards’ reelection in the Nov. 16 runoff, isn’t attending forums or traditional campaign events, preferring instead to attend closed door meetings and events where the audience is supportive. On Monday, Rispone is preparing to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, who is arriving in Baton Rouge this afternoon for a private fundraising event.

Rispone famously has avoided being too specific about his plans for Louisiana, which Edwards picked at saying what ideas that have surfaced sound like retreads of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s policies or extreme positions championed by big-time GOP donor Lane Grigsby and his right wing supporters.

Edwards challenged the media to check the accuracy of his claims that Louisiana’s economy is doing better now in terms of growth and jobs.

“My opponents and his supporters lie so often about those sort of things,” Edwards said. “We’re doing much, much better today because we came together in a bipartisan way.”

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An agreement negotiated with the Republican majority Legislature cut services, raised the state sales tax and suspended tax breaks stabilized state government’s budget, which had been in crisis throughout Jindal’s term, for the next years. Stabilizing the budget allows the state to start investing in services like public school teacher raises and increased funding for early education.

Edwards, who came up three and half percentage points shy of winning outright in the Oct. 12 primary, said voters are more engaged in the runoff now that the choice is down to two candidates.

“The biggest thing is the stark choice,” between Eddie Rispone and he. “(Rispone) is by far the more extreme of the two Republicans in the race,” Edwards said.

President Donald Trump is expected to return to Louisiana and campaign against Edwards sometime during the next two weeks.

Edwards dismissed the president’s opposition as Trump doing what is expected of him by the Republican Party, which wants to oust the Deep South’s only Democratic governor. Edwards noted that when it comes to governing, Trump invited Edwards to the White House nine times.

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Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.