KENNER, La. — Vice President Mike Pence spoke in Kenner Saturday, hoping to help Republicans take back the governor's seat. His visit comes just a week before the primary election.
Vice President Pence did not endorse one candidate and encouraged people to vote for both businessman Eddie Rispone and U.S. Representative Ralph Abraham.
Rispone and Abraham will run against Governor John Bel Edwards in the Oct. 12 primary. Republicans hope to prevent Edwards from winning outright in order to send a republican candidate into a run-off election with the governor.
While the race has gotten ugly in the days leading up to the primary, Rispone and Abraham put down their swords Saturday afternoon at the Pence rally and focused their attacks on Edwards. Pence urged the crowd to vote for either man and said they were “two great choices.”
“We have work to do men and women but for starters, every republican in Louisiana has to get out today or a week from today to send a Republican to the statehouse as your new governor,” said Vice President Mike Pence.
Eyewitness News Political Analyst Clancy DuBos said the GOP’s strategy could hurt them at the polls.
“It’s interesting to me and others that republicans continue to not officially endorse one over the other,” said DuBos. “It has caused a certain amount of confusion among conservatives who might consider following their lead. They might stay home and not go vote.”
A man who said he was undecided entering Saturday’s rally said it seemed there was favorite among the people inside Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center.
“It seems like the crowd for Rispone was a lot more vocal, definitely,” said Bob Thibodeaux.
Thibodeaux said leaving the rally, he was leaning toward voting for Rispone because of that energy.
“I like that he has a businessman’s attitude,” said Thibodeaux.
The purpose of Pence’s visit was to drum up Republican enthusiasm to head to the polls. Some people told WWLTV they left the rally feeling excited.
“I’m feeling very energized today,” said Katina Summers, a Ralph Abraham supporter. “I feel great to be a Republican woman today. When I look at Ralph Abraham I know that he’s telling the truth.”
Tom Fisher said he came to the rally because he feels Louisiana needs a change in leadership and left inspired.
“I’m a little more excited now, I might even put a sign in my yard,” said Fisher.
However, there were holes in the crowd and the room was not full at Saturday’s rally that was free and open to the public. About 300 people attended the event, which DuBos says is surprising.
“In fireworks terms, it was kind of a dud,” said DuBos. “That doesn’t speak well for republican enthusiasm. Granted Mike Pence is not lighting in a bottle, but he is the vice president,” said DuBos.
DuBos feels recent events in Washington D.C. may have played a role in the White House’s involvement in Louisiana’s election.
“If Donald Trump weren't subject to an impeachment inquiry, he might have come down. That would have been a very different picture,” said DuBos.
Governor John Bel Edwards campaign says the Vice President’s visit to Kenner was not surprising.
"Four years ago at the same venue the Vice President (was) in today, Bobby Jindal launched his presidential campaign with the support of Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone,” said John Bel for Louisiana Spokesman Eric Holl. “They want to take us back to the failed policies of Bobby Jindal, but we won't go back. It's not surprising that some politicians in Washington, D.C. are supporting members of their own party.”
Louisiana’s Democratic Party claims the Vice President’s visit won’t have any effect on the primary.
“Vice President Pence’s visit doesn’t change how excited Louisianans are to vote for gov. Edwards. In fact, his visit was hardly about Louisiana at all,” said Executive Director, Stephen Handwerk. “Most of his time was spent talking about politicians in Washington D.S., not the people of Louisiana.”