Democrat John Bel Edwards won the runoff election for Louisiana governor Saturday, defeating Republican David Vitter.
Vitter, once considered a shoo-in to replace Gov. Bobby Jindal in deep-red Louisiana, trailed Edwards in public polling in advance of the weekend’s runoff election.
Edwards said Saturday night called his win a victory over business as usual in the state. He said there was a "breeze of hope" across the state, and joked: "I did not create this breeze of hope ... but I did catch it, and I thank God I did."
"The people of Louisiana have chosen to believe that we can do better, and that by doing better, we will be better," Edwards said. "And I commit to you, we will be better as a result of tonight."
Edwards, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, is the first Democrat to win a statewide race in Louisiana since 2008.
It has been a brutal and pricey contest. In a much-publicized television ad, Edwards referenced Vitter’s involvement in the 2007 "D.C. Madam” scandal, alleging that Vitter chose “prostitutes over patriots.”
Vitter, a staunch conservative who served in the House for two terms before being elected to the Senate in 2004, aired a pair of ads in response that alluded to his quest for moral redemption after the scandal.
One spot featured an endorsement by “Duck Dynasty” star Willie Robertson, who says of Vitter "I know he's made some mistakes, but who hasn't?"
Edwards has also benefitted from GOP infighting. After Vitter barely squeaked out a victory in the GOP primary, one of his fellow Republican candidates, Lt. Gov Jay Dardenne, crossed the aisle to back Edwards over his own party’s pick.
Vitter also failed to secure endorsements from another GOP primary candidate, Scott Angelle, and sitting governor Jindal.
Jindal, who dropped out of the 2016 presidential race on Tuesday and has been plagued by low approval ratings at home, told reporters this week that he would not disclose who he’s supporting in the race.
Jindal congratulated Edwards Wednesday for what he called an "impressive victory" and said his administration would be working with Edwards over the next few weeks "to ensure a seamless transition."
"Now is the time for everyone to put politics and partisanship aside and make sure our new governor is ready on day one," Jindal said in a statement.
Hillary Clinton also congratulated Edwards on the win, saying "John Bel's experience as a soldier, veteran, small business owner and state legislator will serve Louisianans well."