BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards is targeting his new advertising for northeast and central Louisiana, trying to attract support from voters still bristling over intraparty Republican fighting that lambasted their local congressman.
The Deep South’s only Democratic governor released a new TV ad Monday for the Monroe and Alexandria regions, highlighting GOP businessman Eddie Rispone’s hits on Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham in the governor’s race primary competition.
Rispone edged Abraham out of the Nov. 16 runoff election against Edwards after repeatedly slamming the third-term congressman, hobbling Abraham’s campaign. The incumbent governor hopes Abraham supporters will refuse to back Rispone because of those attacks, either casting a ballot for Edwards in the runoff or staying home on Election Day.
Edwards’ 30-second ad shows Abraham confronting Rispone in a debate about the attack ads. In the clips, Abraham calls them lies, accuses Rispone of playing politics and tells Rispone: “It’s just not right.”
“Phony Rispone won’t keep his word to anyone, even Republican Party officials. He promised not to attack Ralph Abraham in the primary, calling him ‘an honorable man.’ But Rispone aired attack ads that were so nasty, Ralph Abraham had to repeatedly call him out for being the phony liar he is,” Edwards campaign spokesman Eric Holl said in a statement.
Rispone campaign spokesman Anthony Ramirez said the Republican candidate, a longtime GOP political donor making his first bid for elected office, doesn’t believe that Abraham’s voters will shun Rispone. He said Louisiana’s Republican voters “are rallying behind Eddie Rispone and President Trump against liberal John Bel Edwards.”
Edwards received 47% of the vote in the primary, compared to 27% for Rispone and 24% for Abraham. Abraham was the leading vote-getter in his congressional district, where Edwards has targeted his new ad.
With the primary behind them, Republican leaders are trying to unite the party behind Rispone, knowing if they can hold onto all the votes that went to the GOP, they can keep Edwards from a second term in the red state. The state GOP held a unity event Saturday to show support for Rispone from Republican elected officials including U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and Attorney General Jeff Landry.
Abraham didn’t attend. He immediately endorsed Rispone on the night of the primary as he conceded the race, but hasn’t done anything further to assist Rispone in the runoff.
During the primary, Rispone’s intraparty hits drew backlash from some Republicans, prompting some elected officials to back Abraham. At the time, Rispone’s campaign defended the attacks as helping voters to vet the candidates and draw distinctions among them.
Rispone panned Abraham for reneging on a promise to donate his congressional salary to charity, for missing congressional votes and for voting with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on some bills. He repeatedly criticized Abraham for a 2016 statement suggesting President Donald Trump should consider stepping aside from the GOP presidential nomination after a recording emerged in which Trump boasted about groping women.
Trump didn’t endorse in the primary, simply urging GOP voters to support either Abraham or Rispone. The president is supporting Rispone in the runoff.