Election 2019 Louisiana Governor (copy)

Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Fewer than four years ago, Louisiana languished in a $2 billion budget hole left by departing Gov. Bobby Jindal, who had squandered a $1 billion surplus left by his predecessor, Kathleen Blanco. In addition to driving Louisiana into a fiscal ditch, and purely to serve his own political ambitions, Jindal also refused to expand Medicaid in Louisiana, a state with some of the poorest health outcomes in the nation.

After eight years of Jindal’s disastrous governance, Louisianans longed for a change. Voters took a chance on a U.S. Army veteran and West Point graduate who had served two terms in the Louisiana House of Representatives from the small town of Amite, in Tangipahoa Parish. Their faith was well-placed. In fewer than four years, John Bel Edwards has led Louisiana out of the fiscal muck and has secured health insurance for nearly half a million previously uninsured Louisianans.

For these and other reasons, he deserves a second term as governor.

Expanding Medicaid was a godsend to Louisiana’s poorest residents. It also helped keep all of Louisiana’s rural hospitals open at a time when scores of them have closed in other southern states. Most important, it improved access to health care, created jobs, and saved lives.

Edwards tackled the budget crisis head on. For seven straight years under Jindal, Louisiana gutted state support for higher education and public health care while raiding trust funds and using other one-time funds for recurring expenses. Mid-year budget cuts became the norm. Working with Republicans as well as Democrats in the Legislature, Edwards turned the state’s fiscal fortunes around — so much so that on Sept. 17 Moody’s Investors Service upgraded Louisiana’s bond outlook from “stable” to “positive.” That is a remarkable milestone considering where we were fewer than four years ago.

Edwards’ GOP opponents in the race, Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone, have tried to portray him as a “tax and spend liberal.” That is a lie. Thanks to Edwards’ responsible leadership, Louisiana’s finances are secure — and we now have a $500 million surplus, which will help repair our state’s crumbling infrastructure and reduce state debt.

Edwards’ record has not been perfect. Job growth in Louisiana still is too slow. Pro-choice advocates disagree — strongly — with his support of the “fetal heartbeat” bill, and supporters of gun control likewise are disappointed by his staunch support of the Second Amendment. While those stances buck Democratic orthodoxy, Edwards has been consistently pro-life and pro-gun throughout his career. His opponents would do the same and undercut Medicaid expansion. They also would revert to Jindal’s reckless fiscal policies, putting hospitals and higher ed in peril once again.

On other fronts, Edwards built bipartisan support for increased investment in early childhood education, a much-need pay raise for teachers, and a focus on criminal justice reform that has, for the first time in recent history, made Louisiana safer and removed us from the top of the list of the most carceral places in the world.

Under Edwards’ leadership, Louisiana has begun climbing out of the ditch. Our state can do even more with him as governor for four more years. For all these reasons, we heartily endorse John Bel Edwards’ re-election.

This is a commentary from Gambit, produced independently from reporters at the paper.