Early voting in Louisiana's runoff election for governor has begun, and it continues through this Saturday, Nov. 14. The choice between the two remaining candidates is clear: State Rep. John Bel Edwards is the man best suited to lead us out of the morass left by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Edwards spent eight years as an Airborne Ranger before graduating from LSU Law Center. He often cites his military training — and the West Point Honor Code — as the bedrock of his approach to public service. During his eight years in the state House of Representatives, Edwards earned the respect of Democrats and Republicans alike. Throughout his tenure, he's been an outspoken critic of Jindal's failed fiscal policies — a position most voters have come to share — but his differences with the governor have not prevented Edwards, a Democrat, from forging strong relationships and productive coalitions with his Republican colleagues. Even those who differ politically with Edwards speak of his character in glowing terms.
Plenty has been said about the shortcomings of Edwards' opponent, U.S. Sen. David Vitter. We won't waste space enumerating the many reasons why voters should not elect the divisive, disingenuous, race-baiting Vitter as Louisiana's next governor. Instead, here are some of the many reasons we urge our readers to support John Bel Edwards:
• Education and finances: As a leading member of the House Education Committee, Edwards brokered budgets that added $70 million to K-12 education in 2013, 2014 and 2015 — without raising taxes. That money helped traditional public schools as well as charter schools and gave teachers pay raises. Edwards supports nonprofit charters, noting that he believes in local control of chartering decisions in districts that are excelling. In districts that are failing, he supports allowing the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to continue reviewing local board denials of charter applications. "The whole point of charter schools is to be a laboratory to educate at-risk children," he says. He also vows to fully fund higher education and to sustain the TOPS scholarship program.
• Health care: Edwards will provide affordable health insurance to nearly 300,000 of Louisiana's working poor by accepting federal Medicaid dollars. This is not only the morally right thing to do, but also the fiscally responsible thing to do.
• Consensus building: While Vitter has called the Legislature "broken and dysfunctional" and attacked "career politicians" (ironic, considering Vitter has held legislative office himself since 1992), Edwards has earned endorsements from leading Republicans as well as Democrats — most notably from Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, one of his erstwhile GOP opponents. In endorsing Edwards, Dardenne said, "Honor, integrity, truthfulness, openness and ethical behavior are the most important traits of public service. John Bel is the candidate who exemplifies these traits." Of Vitter, Dardenne said, "The Republican brand has been damaged. David Vitter will further damage that brand." We agree on all counts.
Louisiana needs a governor who will unite our state, not divide it. We need a governor who will reach across party lines to solve our state's many problems. John Bel Edwards will be that kind of governor.