Election 2019 Louisiana Governor (copy)

Eddie Rispone (left), Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham participate in the first televised gubernatorial debate Sept. 19 in Baton Rouge.

In the children's book “Where’s Waldo,” young eyes are challenged to find the title character — clad in a distinctive red and white striped hat — hiding in plain sight among large groups of people.

That’s what’s happening in Louisiana’s gubernatorial election. Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, a newcomer to politics with a slim record on the key issues facing our state, seems to be hiding from the voters he wants to lead.

Rispone will appear today in a single televised debate against the incumbent, Democrat John Bel Edwards. And he showed up for three primary debates before the October 12 vote.

But there are other key mileposts on the road to the governor’s mansion, and Rispone has been nowhere to be found.

Where is Eddie?

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Not at last Tuesday’s forum of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and statewide economic development leaders, a venue that might have been friendly for a Republican businessman. Edwards, who has some differences with business leaders, had the good sense to show up and take questions.

Not in Shreveport, at an event with law enforcement leaders, where Rispone did not show. That was odd, again, as it was a solo appearance on criminal justice reforms hosted by the sheriff.

Not at the Baton Rouge Press Club. Edwards flew solo there Monday.

“Where’s Eddie?” the governor asked, more than once.

The widely respected Council for a Better Louisiana issued a 17-item questionnaire on subjects ranging from leadership styles to management of higher education. Edwards and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham offered their answers, which are available to the public at www.cabl.org.

Rispone skipped. The questionnaire was not a high-pressure face-to-face debate. Failing to reply suggested a candidate without much to say, or not much he was willing to say.

It’s a puzzling approach to campaigning from a candidate with virtually no official experience, save one appointment from former Gov. Bobby Jindal on the Workforce Commission.

Louisiana voters are used to a muscular governor who can discuss our challenges, lead us through hurricanes, and comfort us in crises — someone who is at home chatting with tycoons and truck drivers, welders and welfare recipients.

Rispone has poured a fortune into his campaign and speaks to his voters chiefly through TV commercials and social media. That strategy has worked well enough so far, as he won a spot in the runoff. But if he wins, governing will demand a more personal approach, and his wealth won’t be of much use.

Baton Rouge debate slated to be only joint appearance for John Bel Edwards, Eddie Rispone in runoff