RAY NAGIN/EDDIE RISPONE

L-R: RAY NAGIN, PHOTO BY LESLIE WESTROOK; EDDIE RISPONE, PHOTO BY JOHN MCCUSKER

The one and only runoff debate between Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican challenger Eddie Rispone was a colossal bust, the political equivalent of a food fight, thanks to the moderators’ abject failure to keep the event on track — and Rispone’s determination to disrupt and distract rather than discuss and inform.

Any objective scorer would have given Edwards the “win” largely because he clearly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to how state government works, while Rispone doesn’t have a clue. In fact, Rispone doesn’t even appear to grasp such basics as the separation of powers and our constitutional system of checks and balances. He blamed Edwards for taxes that the Republican-controlled House and Senate passed by two-thirds margins.

A lot of people, including many who are going to vote for Rispone, have been waiting for him to unveil the specifics of his vision for Louisiana. The sole runoff debate was everyone’s opportunity to see if he has something of substance to offer, something other than vague promises, shallow rhetoric and inartful dodges of the real issues.

Instead of offering specifics, the Republican insider and megadonor shamelessly unleashed what appeared to be a contrived barrage of constant interruptions while continuing his charade of casting himself as an “outsider” who promises to do “something different” — without offering any hints as to what, exactly, he would do differently. Or what he would do at all.

On one level, I guess I can’t blame Rispone for taking that approach. If you don’t know what you’re talking about and your opponent plainly does, perhaps the best strategy is to raise a ruckus at every turn in hopes that voters won’t notice the chasm between your opponent’s knowledge and your ignorance.

An obviously frustrated Edwards summed up the evening with the debate’s best line, telling Rispone, “You don’t know what you don’t know — and what you don’t know is astounding.”

The real losers were the voters who might have watched the televised debacle. They deserved an honest, thorough, robust but civil discussion of the challenges facing Louisiana and the two candidates’ opposing viewpoints. Instead, they got nearly a solid hour of Rispone interrupting Edwards (and Edwards doing the same to Rispone — though nowhere near as often), while the two moderators sheepishly (and without success) tried to keep things on course.

When he wasn’t disrupting and deflecting, Rispone dodged virtually every question put to him, resorting instead to his tired mantras of “Trump, Trump, Trump” and “I’m a businessman. I know how to fix things.”

Speaking of businessmen who think they know how to fix government, I wonder if anyone else sees a parallel between Rispone and another “businessman” candidate who promised to fix all that was broken with New Orleans nearly two decades ago: former Mayor Ray Nagin.

Team Edwards says Rispone would return Louisiana to the dark days of former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s disastrous tenure, but Nagin — who campaigned on big ideas but turned out to be a clueless dilettante — seems the more accurate comparison. In similar fashion, Rispone seems far more interested in being in office than actually doing the job.

Follow Clancy DuBos on Twitter: @clancygambit.

Email Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos at: clancy@gambitweekly.com.