Gubernatorial candidates, from left, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, Eddie Rispone, and Gov. John Bel Edwards, face each other in the second debate, hosted by Louisiana Public Broadcasting, on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, at Angelle Hall on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Though Louisiana is home to dozens, literally, of singers, the top three gubernatorial candidates crossed state lines to find their favorite country music artists.

In the 53rd minute of Thursday’s Louisiana Governor's Debate, shown statewide on Louisiana Public Broadcasting television, LPB President Beth Courtney couldn’t pass the opportunity to ask the candidates to name their favorite country music artists. LPB had just finished a well-received, week-long documentary on the history of country music by Ken Burns.

Most politicos would have been expected to name Jerry Lee Lewis or Sammy Kershaw, or even Gov. Jimmie Davis.

Still, there’s Bocephus, Hank Williams Jr., who was born in Shreveport. Or maybe, Grammy and CMT award winning performer Trace Adkins, who is from Webster Parish and turned to singing after being injured playing football for Louisiana Tech University.

And what about the Cajun corner of country music?

Virtually all the artists of that genre from the Bayou State: D.L. Menard, Nathan Abshire, the Balfa Brothers, Michael Doucet, and Feufollet, to name a few.

Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, of Alto, could have gone with fellow Richland Parish native Tim McGraw.

But Abraham chose instead Garth Brooks, an Oklahoma native whose hit “Callin’ Baton Rouge” is an LSU spirit song played at opportune moments to rile the crowd at athletic events. (Interestingly, the other big LSU spirit song, “Louisiana Saturday Night,” is performed by Mel McDaniel, also of Oklahoma, though the seminal version was recorded earlier by Jimmy C. Newman, of Mamou.)

Republican Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone likes Collin Raye, who is from Arkansas.

Raye’s biggest hit was the 1992 “Love, Me,” which includes the lyrics “If you get there before I do, don't give up on me / I'll meet you when my chores are through, I don't know how long I'll be…”

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards was swift and decisive in declaring that his favorite song was “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and its performer, country music icon George Jones, was his favorite artist.

Jones was raised in the east Texas town of Colmesneil, about 50 miles from the Louisiana state line.

The song is about a man longing for a woman who left him long ago and he goes to his grave hoping she would return to him. It was 1980’s best-selling song in the U.S., when Edwards was 14, and considered one of the best country music songs ever written.

In "Country Music," the film by Ken Burns, Garth Brooks calls George Jones the most soulful singer ever to live on the planet.

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