Gifford Briggs: The 2019 governor’s race … and then there were three

Louisiana is a unique state, notable among the others in the nation. We are known for our exquisite Cajun cuisine, a football coach with an often indiscernible southern dialect, and a colorful political climate with seemingly endless elections.

Louisiana Oil & Gas Association President Gifford Briggs

It can be hard to get excited about these elections considering we seem to go to the polls every few months.  We completed a statewide election Dec. 8, and not even two months from now, people will be headed back to the polls to fill seven open positions for state representative. However, Louisiana cannot afford to take their eyes off the ball or fall asleep at the wheel because the main event is here.

For months now, everyone just knew that the 2019 Governor’s election was going to be a John Kennedy vs. John Bel Edwards matchup. Polls were being run, plans being laid out, and checks being cashed in anticipation of this heavy-weight matchup with historical last names. As is often the case with Louisiana politics, Kennedy pulled a December shocker and announced that he was going to stay in the U.S. Senate and forgo the chance to take the helm at the State Capitol.

The immediate responses varied from frustration to excitement but quickly began to shift to the other challengers to Governor John Bel Edwards—if not Kennedy, then who? It was good news for those that wish to see a challenger to the governor, in that it did not take long for a flurry of names to arise. Currently, there are two announced challengers to Governor Edwards—Eddie Rispone and Dr. Ralph Abraham—and a few that have not settled on whether they are running or not.

The first individual to announce his candidacy was the founder and chairman of ISC Constructors in Baton Rouge, Eddie Rispone. Mr. Rispone brings a fresh and business-minded perspective to governing the state of Louisiana. Starting his career by wiring air condition units in high school, he has since gone on to build ISC Construction, which is a very successful business that employs thousands. Mr. Rispone has been heavily involved in education reform throughout Louisiana. When asked why he has decided to run, Mr. Rispone responded, “I think we can do better. I know we can do better.”

The second candidate to announce also has an impressive resume and currently represents Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District in the northeast corner of the state, Dr. Ralph Abraham. Not only is he a congressman, but he is also a doctor, a veteran, a veterinarian, a farmer in Richland parish, and a pilot who still runs occasional missions for the U.S. Coast Guard. Dr. Abraham has a proven track record and brings real-world application to the policies and laws brought forth in D.C.

Governor Edwards will be campaigning on his record as governor this time around and will be a much different candidate than he was in 2015. The governor has been touring the state touting economic indicators that support his re-election, Medicaid expansion, and prison reform efforts in Louisiana as key reasons the people should support him for a second term.

What this all means for the oil and gas industry remains to be seen. The oil and gas industry is the backbone of Louisiana and arguably, the industry that most represents the “Spirit of Louisiana.” Candidates will surely make their pitch for support from one of the largest industries in the state. All three of the announced candidates know the biggest issue facing the industry in Louisiana are coastal and legacy lawsuits. They also know that Louisiana has the highest oil severance tax rate in the country. The candidate(s) that bring solutions to these challenges—solutions that can bring investment back from Texas and Mississippi into Louisiana—have an opportunity to win the support of the industry.

Gifford Briggs is president of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association.