AP NEWS

Attack ads move to state issues in Louisiana governor’s race

November 12, 2019
1 of 2
Louisiana's Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone greets supporters and talks to media on a campaign stop at New Orleans International Airport in Kenner, La., Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. Rispone says a radio ad linking him and President Donald Trump to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke is "disgusting." Rispone is blaming Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards for the advertising by the New Orleans-based Black Organization for Leadership Development. There's no evidence Edwards is connected to the effort. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
1 of 2
Louisiana's Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone greets supporters and talks to media on a campaign stop at New Orleans International Airport in Kenner, La., Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. Rispone says a radio ad linking him and President Donald Trump to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke is "disgusting." Rispone is blaming Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards for the advertising by the New Orleans-based Black Organization for Leadership Development. There's no evidence Edwards is connected to the effort. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — After weeks of nationally-themed advertising, Republican attack spots against Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards have shifted to state issues in the final days ahead of Saturday’s election.

The content change comes after a surge in early voting turnout from black voters, which is seen as a boost to Edwards’ chances in the runoff because African Americans tend to support Democrats.

Edwards supporters say a barrage of GOP ads tying Republican challenger Eddie Rispone to President Donald Trump to boost support for Rispone also has helped draw anti-Trump voters to the polls for Edwards. Outreach to minority voters has featured anti-Trump messages.

Attack ads showing Trump slamming Edwards and promoting Rispone still are in rotation, and Trump will hold a pro-Rispone rally in Bossier City on Thursday. But in recent days, Republican groups also have started hitting Edwards on state-specific topics, as the race remains tight even in a ruby red state where Rispone should have an edge.

“There’s not a clear polling advantage,” Michael Henderson, director of Louisiana State University’s Public Policy Research Center, said Tuesday. “When that’s the case, it’s just a matter of getting the folks out, whose voters are most excited to show up.”

Seeking to pull support from Edwards, the Republican Governors Association launched a spot criticizing his handling of flood recovery programs, saying the governor’s administration has been too slow to hand out millions in aid. Edwards’ administration has blamed delays on federal red tape.

Meanwhile, the Republican-financed organization Truth in Politics is criticizing Edwards on coastal projects, claiming the governor’s West Point roommate Murray Starkel has been given favorable treatment in contracting for the work.

The organization tweaked the ad after facing blowback that its claims were false. While the initial spot said Starkel landed a state contract worth up to $65 million, the revised version says Starkel is “poised to cash in” on lucrative work. Starkel’s firm hasn’t received a state deal, but is prequalified to bid for possible contracts.

Edwards is trying to undercut any damage from those allegations, emphasizing that the first Truth in Politics spot was pulled down from a TV station because of questions about the validity of its claims.

Meanwhile, Edwards and Rispone continue to tangle over veterans in their own TV advertising, stemming from Rispone’s comments in a Nov. 1 radio interview.

The Republican businessman said Edwards, a West Point graduate, has “hurt the reputation” of the military academy because of his work as a trial lawyer. Edwards called the comments offensive to his service at West Point and as an Army ranger.

In its new ad, the Edwards campaign calls Rispone unpatriotic for those comments about West Point — and for the Truth in Politics advertising slamming Starkel, a retired Army officer. Truth in Politics was co-founded by Rispone friend Lane Grigsby.

Rispone’s doubled down on his West Point comments, with two new TV spots released Tuesday featuring veterans who criticize Edwards’ performance in office.

___

Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte