State Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite, as the Louisiana Democratic Party votes Saturday to endorse him as their candidate for governor.
The Democratic State Central Committee nominated Saturday State Rep John Bel Edwards as the party’s sole candidate for governor.
The vote was without dissent and followed by applause.
“Louisiana has lost its way,” said Edwards, of Amite, adding that the Jindal administration failed to strategically invest in the state.
Edwards told the Democrats that he supports a minimum wage, equal pay for women and increased financial support for higher education. But the bulk of the campaign will focus on Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is term-limited and flirting with run for president.
“Bobby Jindal is more unpopular in Louisiana than President Barack Obama,” Edwards said.
He pointed out that his three Republican opponents – Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, of Breaux Bridge; Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, of Baton Rouge; and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, of Metairie – have all supported, or at least not opposed, Jindal’s policies. Those policies, he said, cut $700 million from the state’s colleges and universities, which required higher education to increase tuition and fees on students, as well as led to the closing of the emergency room that served mid-city Baton Rouge.
“As the only veteran in the race, I appeal to a diverse base of voters in our state because I am authentic,” Edwards said. The 48-year-old lawyer graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1988. He is the son of longtime Tangipahoa Parish sheriff Frank M. Edwards Jr. and brother of the current sheriff, Daniel H. Edwards. He was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2008 and leads the chamber’s Democratic Party caucus.
Edwards walked through a standing ovation shaking hands and hugging delegates, including state Rep. Patricia Smith, the Baton Rouge Democrat whose district includes the State Capitol and who officially nominated him.
“You don’t outsource your fiscal policy to Grover Norquist,” Edwards said referring to Jindal passing the various contingencies to raise revenues and fill a $1.6 billion deficit past the prominent anti-tax crusader from Washington, D.C.
If he wins, an Edwards administration would look hard at the tax credits, deductions and exemptions offered businesses that strip of billions of dollars of revenues from state coffers.
“We have to grow the economy,” Edwards said in an interview after his speech. Louisiana has offered so many incentives that when new jobs are created, the state has given away the new revenues.
“You can’t have so many incentive exemptions, to where you can’t increase net new revenues to the point to pay your obligations,” Edwards said.
The Louisiana AFL-CIO, the state’s largest union, endorsed Edwards earlier this month.
Though more than a half million voters are registered Democrats than have affiliated with the Republican Party, all the state officials elected statewide, both U.S. Senators, five of the six congressmen, and the majorities of both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature belong to the GOP. The gubernatorial election is scheduled for Oct. 24.
The action Saturday by party leaders will help keep other major candidates from jumping into the governor’s race. Edwards said the vote would allow the party, whose registered voters outnumber Republicans, to coalesce behind one candidate.
And the seven-month race will help voters better understand that he is in the mainstream of Louisiana thoughts and practices, Edwards said.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been rumored to be interested in running statewide.
“He told me personally, on more than one occasion, that he wasn’t going to run,” Edwards said.
Since the defeat of his sister, Mary Landrieu, in the U.S. Senate campaign last fall, Mayor Landrieu, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish; and U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, whose congressional district stretches up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Baton Rouge; are considered the state’s leading Democrats still in office.