Louisiana's Nov. 16 runoff election will not only determine who will lead the state for the next four years, but it also will answer questions about President Donald Trump's influence in the state and Democrats' role in government and politics.
If Republican businessman Eddie Rispone can oust Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, that will solidify the GOP's dominance in Louisiana and likely keep the Democrats from holding any statewide elected position.
In the Legislature, Republicans already have gained a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate and are within striking distance of doing the same in the House, depending on the runoff elections. The GOP already has flipped several legislative seats that had been held by Democrats.
That could lessen Democratic influence in statewide policymaking, because if Republicans vote as a bloc, they wouldn't need to negotiate with Democrats on even the heftiest items requiring two-thirds votes.
The governor's race could settle whether Louisiana has gone all in on its support of Trump, deciding whether the president — and a candidate's praise and backing of him — influences unrelated political competitions that have nothing to do with Washington.
Rispone, a longtime Republican donor making his first bid for elected office, has tied his candidacy to Trump. He used his appreciation for the president to introduce himself to voters months ago in ads, and his first TV spots of the runoff feature Trump, not Rispone.
The president is encouraging Louisiana residents to choose Rispone, traveled to Louisiana on the eve of the primary election to rally voters against Edwards and seems to want a GOP victory in the governor's race that he can claim as a win for himself.
Edwards, the Deep South's only Democratic governor, has deliberately sidestepped clashes with Trump and argues that Washington's partisan politics shouldn't sway a state governor's race. His success in making that pitch to voters could decide whether he achieves a second term.
Over the next four weeks leading to the runoff, other questions remain as well.
Will Rispone, founder of a Baton Rouge industrial contracting company, tell the state's voters what his agenda as governor would be?
The GOP contender is clear that he thinks Edwards raised taxes too high, stifled economic development and mismanaged the Medicaid expansion. But he's vague on the details of his own plans if he took over as Louisiana's top leader.
Rispone has pledged to hold a state constitutional convention to rewrite provisions dealing with the budget and taxes, state employee protections and education, though he's provided few specifics about how he wants to overhaul the governing document. He's promised to cut taxes, though it's unclear how he would balance the budget with less money even as he talked of new spending on early childhood education and roadwork.
Edwards hasn't exactly fleshed out a sweeping agenda for the next four years either. But voters already know the Democratic incumbent's priorities from how he's governed, giving them a much better sense of what they'd get with a second Edwards term.
Will donations start pouring in for Rispone now that third-place primary finisher, Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, is out of the race? Will the pace of money stay strong for Edwards?
Rispone has largely self-financed his campaign so far, pouring $11 million of his own money into his campaign account. But it remains unclear whether donations will start to pick up now that the field has been whittled to one GOP candidate and that candidate has a shot at winning the election.
Donors like to bet on winners or at least potential winners, and they particularly like to give money to a governor whose administration oversees business regulation and can heavily influence tax policies. Rispone also might be looking to repay some of those personal loans he gave the campaign.
Edwards, meanwhile, doesn't have the personal wealth of Rispone to fund his campaign, so he'll need donors who have given his campaign millions to keep the faith that a Democrat's reelection bid can be successful, even in a red state that Trump won by 20 points and amid a national GOP offensive aimed against him.
Melinda Deslatte has covered Louisiana politics for The Associated Press since 2000.