NEW ORLEANS — Democrat Incumbent John Bel Edwards and Republican Eddie Rispone will advance to November's runoff to determine who will become Louisiana's next governor, WWL-TV has projected.

WWL-TV political analysts project that Edwards will not be able to surpass the 50% benchmark needed to win outright over five others in the field. Rispone's advance to November's runoff is a stunning win against Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, a third-term congressman and doctor from rural northeast Louisiana who was widely considered the party's standard-bearer in the race.

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Neither Abraham or Rispone emerged as a Republican favorite before the election, and instead, party leaders bombarded the state with advertising and visits from President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to urge anti-Edwards votes to force the runoff.

In Louisiana, all candidates run against each other, regardless of party, on the same primary ballot.

Edwards - a Catholic, anti-abortion, pro-gun former Army ranger - also proved remarkably resilient deep in the heart of Trump country. His position on abortion, while out of step with the national Democratic Party, is considered one of the issues that helped him win over voters in a red state where every other statewide elected official is a Republican.

Rispone spent millions of his wealth on the race, blanketing the television airwaves with campaign ads and sapping support from Abraham. Trump is expected to endorse him in the runoff race against Edwards.

Republicans believe they can recapture the governor's mansion in a state with no other Democratic statewide elected officials and a majority-GOP Legislature. Democrats crave a victory in Louisiana to show they can compete in Southern states, rather than ceding much of the territory to Trump.


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The Associated Press contributed to this report.