Governor's race might boost voter turnout in Washington Parish

With the October 12 election now just 5 weeks away, attention is turning to voter turnout numbers in Washington Parish.

A race for governor is at the top of the ballot, and this generally has meant good turnout by voters in the parish.

However, 2019 turnout might be considerably better than “good”, because two of the three major candidates for governor have strong local connections in the parish.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is from nearby Amite. One of his major opponents, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, represents Washington Parish in Congress and has been a frequent visitor to the parish. Edwards is a Democrat and Abraham is a Republican.

State Sen. Beth Mizell, a Republican, who is seeking re-election to her 12th Senate District seat, said, “The governor’s race will have an influence on the legislative races, I believe.”

Her opponent, Washington Parish School Superintendent Darrell Fairburn, a Democrat, said he defintely thinks the governor’s race will have an impact in the parish. “Congressman Abraham represents parts of the Florida parishes, and Gov. Edwards is from the neighboring parish. It should generate a large turnout, which will influence all of the races “ in the parish.

When Edwards was first elected in 2015, he carried Washington Parish heavily over his opponent, then-Sen. David Vitter. Edwards had 6,067 votes in the parish in 2015 compared to 4,998 for Vitter. That’s a 55%-45% margin of victory.

But Abraham has also done well in the parish, running strongly here in each of his three elections to Congress. (A third major candidate is Eddie Rispone of Baton Rouge, also a Republican.)

So both Edwards and Abraham have solid reasons to expect to draw plenty of votes in Washington Parish in the October 12 election.

Edwards is the only Democrat holding statewide office in Louisiana. Otherwise, all statewide offices are held by Republicans. The Louisiana Democratic Party is pulling out the stops to get Edwards re-elected this fall, while the state Republican Party wants to defeat this last Democratic holdout and put a Republican in the governor’s office.

Washington Parish itself, once a solidly Democratic bastion, has been trending toward voting Republican in national elections. and somewhat on a statewide basis. Donald Trump took 67% of the parish’s vote in 2016 when he beat Hillary Clinton for president.

Republican Mizell, the state senator, surprised some parish political observers in 2015 when she collected 51% of the Washington Parish vote enroute to winning the District 12 Senate seat. (District 12 also reaches into St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes.)

And in recent years, the number of Republicans seeking office in the parish has increased in line with the statewide trend. For the 2019 election, three of the parishwide candidates are Republicans and there are seven Republicans seeking Parish Council seats. In two Parish Council districts, both candidates are Republicans.

However, the major parish offices are still held by Democrats, including Sheriff, Clerk of Court, Assessor, and 75tyh District state representative.