Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards visited Concordia Parish on Tuesday, part of a campaign swing through northeastern Louisiana.
Edwards, a Democrat, received 40 percent of the parish’s vote during the primary election on Oct. 12 and says he needs more support for the Nov. 16 runoff against Republican Eddie Rispone.
"We're seeking to increase our votes everywhere obviously," Edwards said during a talking Ferriday. "And now that we have a race with two candidates instead of six candidates, I fully expect to do much, much better.
“Concordia is a parish that I won four years ago. It's a parish, quite frankly, that I believe I will win this time. It is important. And I think it's important for the people of Concordia to acknowledge the work that we have been able to do over the last four years that has benefitted the people here,” including “our renewed investments in education with teacher pay raises."
Edwards spoke at the Ferriday Hall before a large crowd of supporters.
His opponent in the upcoming runoff, Rispone, edged out fellow Republican Ralph Abraham to claim the second place spot in the primary election.
Statewide, Edwards polled 625,952 votes (47 percent), followed by Rispone with 368,295 (27 percent) and Abraham at 317,106 (24 percent).
Edwards polled 2,628 votes in Concordia Parish (40 percent), followed by Abraham with 2,043 votes (31 percent) and Rispone at 1,655 (25 percent).
Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, and he is the only Democrat holding statewide office in Louisiana. He defeated U.S. Sen. David Vitter in 2015 and succeeded Bobby Jindal in the governor's office, breaking a Republican trifecta in the state.
Edwards, who stressed being pro life, said that Louisiana went from having a budget deficit to a budget surplus during his tenure. He has emphasized increasing funding for K-12 schools, raising teacher pay, and expanding Medicaid in the state as other accomplishments of his administration.
Edwards expressed his appreciation to the state legislature working together despite party differences.
"We're all brothers and sisters in Christ," he said. "That has to guide us in what we do."
Edwards mentioned the funding his office was able to provide for the new hospital -- Trinity Medical Center -- being built on U.S. 425.
"And once it's built, we are going to have the operational dollars in place for reimbursements largely because of Medicaid expansion to make sure its successful," Edwards said.
Edwards said his office has also invested in the port in Vidalia.
"We've also done a lot of work with small water systems all over the state of Louisiana including here," he said. "We've had multiple flood fights here. The Council on Aging has been incredibly important because we want our older folks to have security and dignity. We were actually able to increase our funding for our parishes with respect to the Council on Aging. They went from $37,000 a year previously to now $100,000. And all the changes I have been talking about with the general fund for the State of Louisiana - what we paid for -- increased by only one percent."
Edwards said Louisiana is in a much better place now.
"The economy is bigger than it's ever been in the state of Louisiana, personal income is the highest ever and unemployment is the lowest in 12 years and we're making new investments in education system," he said. "We also have new investments in early childhood education in the state of Louisiana. This is what stability and growth look like and this is why we need to maintain the momentum we have. We can't go back to where we were four years ago with the largest deficit in the history of the state."
Edwards said the biggest change he has seen in politics since 2008 is social media.
"It is both good and bad," he said. "There are so many people who weigh in on social media, but quite often they will say things that they would never say out loud.
“Politics is not for the faint of heart. When you put your name on the dotted line and you're on the ballot you can just about rest assured that there's going to be a lot of things said that are just completely untrue. As a candidate I take that pretty well.
“My family, however, that's very very tough on them. But it’s still great to be in politics. Good people have to continue to offer themselves to public service. And I feel so privileged to be given the opportunity to be governor over the last four years. I look forward to four more years so we can continue taking our state forward."