Louisiana’s Democratic governor John Bel Edwards has narrowly seen off a challenge from the Republicans to clinch a second term.
Mr Edwards is the Democrats’ only governor in the Deep South and his win delivers a blow to US President Donald Trump, who has suffered another gubernatorial loss this year.
In the heart of Trump country, the moderate Mr Edwards cobbled together enough cross-party support with his focus on bipartisan, state-specific issues to defeat Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, getting about 51% of the vote.
Coming after a defeat in the Kentucky governor’s race and sizeable losses in Virginia’s legislative races, the Louisiana result seems certain to rattle Republicans as they head into the 2020 presidential election. Mr Trump fought to return the seat to the Republicans, making three trips to Louisiana to rally against Mr Edwards.
In a victory rally late on Saturday, Mr Edwards thanked supporters. He said: “Tonight the people of Louisiana have chosen to chart their own path.”
Mr Trump had made the run-off election between Mr Edwards and Mr Rispone a test of his own popularity and political prowess heading into the 2020 presidential race. On Saturday, Mr Trump went on Twitter in a vigorous plug for Mr Rispone.
The president’s intense attention motivated not only conservative Republicans, but also powered a surge in anti-Trump and black voter turnout that helped Mr Edwards.
As he conceded the race, Mr Rispone called on supporters to give a round of applause for Mr Trump, saying: “That man loves America and he loves Louisiana.”
Democrats who argue that nominating a moderate presidential candidate is the best approach to beat Mr Trump are certain to say Louisiana’s race bolsters their case. Mr Edwards opposes gun restrictions, signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans and dismissed the impeachment effort as a distraction.
But while Mr Rispone’s loss raises questions about the strength of Mr Trump’s coattails, its relevance to his re-election chances are less clear. Louisiana is expected to easily back Mr Trump next year, and Mr Edwards’ views in many ways are out of step with his own party.