Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) lost his bid for governor of Louisiana by double digits in a run-off on Saturday to Democrat John Bel Edwards. Sen. Vitter has announced that he will not run for re-election to the Senate.
The senator’s years-old prostitution scandal and difficult relationships with several Republicans in the state proved to be too much to overcome. Vitter has had “high negatives” in political polling for years — meaning many voters have an unfavorable view of him — but that hadn’t kept him from winning campaigns — until now.
After winning re-election to his Senate seat in 2010, Vitter had been regarded nationally as one of those rare politicians able to survive an embarrassing sex scandal. But Louisiana voters apparently care more about the personal history of the next governor than a member of Congress. His connection to prostitution dampened enthusiasm for him, particularly among Christian conservatives, once his most ardent supporters.
Gov.-elect Edwards is a bit of a maverick in terms of being a Democrat. He’s pro-life and pro-guns, almost a requirement to be a politician in the South, but unlike the Republicans, the Democrats allow for diversity, if not for the sake of it but for the reality of that’s what it takes to get elected in a state like Louisiana.
Edwards may have to govern in a bipartisan manner, not just by choice. The governor-elect has a serious budget crisis on his hands, and will need a two-thirds vote of the GOP-controlled Legislature for many of his proposals to fix Louisiana’s finances.
“I think that the Legislature and executive branch should cooperate fully,” said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, who is likely to remain atop the state senate in 2016.
But not everyone is excited to see Edwards head up the executive office. The Democrat makes many of the state’s leading business groups nervous. Edwards has not been supportive of the school choice movement, including charter schools and the state voucher program. Business leaders also believe he is more inclined to roll back their tax credits and incentive programs to fix the state’s budget problems than a Republican would be.
It’s not going to be easy for him, and one Democrat in the Deep South doesn’t mean a renaissance for the party, but at least the loathsome creature Vitter is gone and that’s good enough for now.