Eddie Rispone (left) and Ralph Abraham (right)

Eddie Rispone (left) and Ralph Abraham (right)

It would be overstating things — by a lot — to say that the Louisiana governor’s race is finally getting interesting. But at least voters trying to tell the difference between Democrat John Bel Edwards’ two Republican challengers now have something to work with, and on a major topic no less.

One of the declared GOP candidates, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, has taken the default Republican position on the death penalty. He not only supports it, he said recently, but wants to see it enacted regularly. That’s an issue because the state has not executed anyone since 2010, due largely to a lack of access to the drugs it’s legally allowed to use. And it’s a bigger issue because some Republicans — most loudly Attorney General Jeff Landry — are trying to use the dearth of executions to score points against Edwards.

Businessman Eddie Rispone, though, says he’s a death penalty opponent.

“I really don’t believe in the death penalty,” Rispone told The Advocate on Thursday. “It goes back to my faith – really and truly. If it was proven to be a deterrent and it saved innocent lives, then I would probably have to think hard about it again.”

Rispone may be somewhat of an outlier, but he’s got some company in the GOP. One prominent death penalty opponent is state Sen. Dan Claitor, a term-limited Baton Rouge Republican and former prosecutor who is expected to take one more pass at abolishing the practice during the upcoming legislative session.

Meanwhile, Edwards himself continues to studiously avoid sharing his personal feelings on the matter.

"I took an oath to support the Constitution and laws of the United States and the state of Louisiana," Edwards said in a statement last fall when The Advocate asked for clarity on his position. "The fact of the matter is that we cannot execute someone in the state of Louisiana today because the only legally prescribed manner set forth in state statute is unavailable to us. That's not through any fault of my own or the Department of Corrections."


Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.