Democrat John Bel Edwards won the runoff election for Louisiana governor Saturday, defeating the once-heavy favorite, Republican David Vitter, and handing the Democrats their first statewide victory since 2008. Edwards, a state lawmaker, will take over the office from term-limited Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal in January. Voters' rejection of Vitter was a stunning turn of events for the US senator, who has been a political powerhouse in the state for years and started his campaign nearly two years ago as the race's front-runner. Vitter responded to what Politico frames as "the state's rebuke" by announcing that he'll retire from the Senate next year. "I'm eager to refocus on the important work of the United States Senate," he said. "I'm only going to be doing that for one more year through the end of this term."
Edwards painted the race as a referendum on Vitter's character and integrity and suggested the US senator didn't measure up. Edwards focused on his West Point degree and military resume, and he pledged a bipartisan leadership style. In the final days, Vitter sought to rally Republican voters who stayed home in the primary by drawing policy distinctions with Edwards and making Syrian refugee resettlement an issue. Rather than a race about the state's deep financial troubles, the contest largely became a referendum on Vitter, who was hit with repeated attacks for a 2007 prostitution scandal after he was linked to Washington's "DC Madam." Vitter also was hampered by high disapproval ratings for Jindal, who is blamed for the state's financial problems.