Can This Governor Teach Democrats How to Win in the South? – Jack Shafer September 02, 2017


John Bel Edwards might be pro-life and pro-gun, but he’s also notched some real progressive wins.

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

“Half of Louisiana is under indictment,” the old saw goes, “and the other half is under water.” Louisiana politicians haven’t been keeping up with their end of the bargain lately. No major political figures are under indictment or in prison today. The devastating storms haven’t abated one bit, however, and that’s why Gov. John Bel Edwards in early August was in the suburban town of Youngsville, where two days of non-stop rains a year earlier had flooded 300 homes.

One of them belongs to Paul Hebert, a 29-year-old operations director at an equipment manufacturer. With federal and state aid, he and his pregnant wife have settled back into their refurbished home on Flanders Ridge Drive. “Wow!” the governor exclaimed while Hebert showed him photos of 14 inches of water covering the floor. “We had to replace everything but the washer and dryer,” Hebert explained.

As Edwards headed out to his next event, a man in a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops buttonholed him on the street. Ryan Fontenot, a neighbor of the Heberts, badgered the governor about his inability to qualify for more federal recovery funds.(Louisiana has received $1.6 billion so far to assist homeowners and is seeking another $2 billion for them and to fix damaged infrastructure.) “The Republicans in Washington don’t want to help you because you’re a Democratic governor in the South,” Fontenot, a high school civics teacher, told him.

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