John Bel Edwards

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John Bel Edwards
56th Governor of Louisiana
In office
January 11, 2016 – January 8, 2024
LieutenantBilly Nungesser
Preceded byBobby Jindal
Succeeded byJeff Landry
Minority Leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives
In office
January 10, 2012 – December 10, 2015
Preceded byJane Smith
Succeeded byGene Reynolds
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives
from the 72nd district
In office
January 14, 2008 – December 10, 2015
Preceded byRobby Carter
Succeeded byRobby Carter
Personal details
Born (1966-09-16) September 16, 1966 (age 57)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Donna Hutto
(m. 1989)
EducationUnited States Military Academy (BS)
Louisiana State University (JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1988–1996
Unit25th Infantry Division
82nd Airborne Division

John Bel Edwards (born September 16, 1966) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 56th governor of Louisiana from 2016 to 2024. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the Democratic leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 2012 to 2015.

First elected to the Louisiana House in 2007, Edwards became Democratic minority leader in 2012. He defeated Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter in the second round of the 2015 gubernatorial election, and became Louisiana governor in January 2016. He won a second term in 2019, becoming the first Democrat to win reelection as governor of Louisiana since Edwin Edwards (no relation) in 1975.[1] He is a United States Army veteran, having served with the 82nd Airborne Division, reaching the rank of captain. He is the most recent Democrat elected to a statewide office in Louisiana.[2] Some political observers consider Edwards a conservative Democrat.[3][4]

After leaving office, Edwards joined the New Orleans-based law firm Fishman Haygood LLP, where his practice focuses primarily on renewable energy litigation.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

John Bel Edwards was born in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana on September 16, 1966.[6] He was raised in Amite, Louisiana, the son of Dora Jean (née Miller) and Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Frank M. Edwards, Jr. Born into an economically and politically well-established family in the parish, he graduated from Amite High School in 1984 as valedictorian.

Edwards as a West Point cadet

In 1988, Edwards received a BA in engineering from the United States Military Academy, where he was on the Dean's List and served as vice chairman of the panel that enforced the West Point honor code.[7]

Edwards completed Airborne School in 1986, while a student at West Point. After receiving his commission, he completed the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning in 1988, Ranger School in 1989, and the Infantry Officer Advanced Course in 1992.

Edwards served in the United States Army for eight years, mostly in the 25th Infantry Division and 82nd Airborne Division. He commanded a company in the 82nd's 3rd Brigade, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Edwards ultimately ended his military career to return to Louisiana because of family considerations.

Legal career[edit]

After leaving the Army, Edwards pursued a legal education at Louisiana State University's Paul M. Hebert Law Center (LSU Law). He received his J.D. degree in 1999, and after graduation clerked for Judge James L. Dennis of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Edwards went on to become a practicing attorney with the Edwards & Associates law firm in Amite.[8] He handled a variety of cases, but did not practice criminal law because his brother was the local sheriff.[7] His nephew, Bradley Stevens, worked at the firm as a law partner.[9]

Louisiana House of Representatives[edit]

In 2007, Edwards ran for a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives and was forced into a general election runoff with fellow attorney George Tucker.[10] Edwards won every parish in the district.[11] He was the only freshman lawmaker to chair a committee, the Veterans Affairs Committee, in the legislature. Edwards was also selected as chair of the Democratic House caucus, a rarity for a freshman legislator. Edwards criticized Governor Bobby Jindal for his frequent trips away from Louisiana to raise funds for Republicans elsewhere while Louisiana had been reducing its funding for higher education.[citation needed]

In 2011, Edwards was reelected to the Louisiana House of Representatives, defeating Johnny Duncan, 83% to 17%.[12] He chaired the Louisiana House Democratic Caucus, making him the House Minority Leader.[13] Cities and towns that Edwards represented included Amite, Greensburg, and Kentwood as well as part of Hammond.

Governor of Louisiana[edit]



On February 21, 2013, Edwards announced his candidacy for governor in 2015. He said that Louisiana needed "a healthy dose of common sense and compassion for ordinary people".[14] The only major Democrat in the race, Edwards polled first in the nonpartisan blanket primary with 444,517 votes (39.9%), followed by Vitter, who finished second with 256,300 votes (23%). In third place was Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle of Breaux Bridge, who received 214,982 votes (19.3%).[15]

A JMC Analytics poll before the primary showed Edwards with a nine-point lead over Vitter, 28% to 19%.[16] After the primary polls showed Edwards with a commanding lead. Market Research Insight pollster Verne Kennedy placed Edwards ahead, 54% to 38% or 51% to 40%, depending on the level of turnout among African-American voters, 25% or 20%.[17]

Edwards won the November 21 runoff with 56.1% of the vote.[18] The New York Times noted that the gubernatorial race was one "that many other Democrats once considered hopeless" early in the cycle.[19]


In 2019, Edwards ran for reelection to a second term as governor. In the runoff election, he faced Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. As Louisiana voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, the race drew national attention after Trump visited the state multiple times on Rispone's behalf.[20]

Portrait of Edwards in 2013

Edwards ultimately defeated Rispone, 51.33% to 48.67%. His victory made him the first Democratic governor of Louisiana to be elected to a second consecutive term in over four decades, since Edwin Edwards in 1975.[21]


Edwards meeting with Louisiana National Guardsmen in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, March 2016
Edwards speaking at a press conference in Lafayette, Louisiana, August 2016
Edwards meeting with President Donald Trump in April 2020
Edwards meeting with President Joe Biden in September 2021

On his inauguration day, Edwards failed to persuade the majority-Republican Louisiana House to choose a Democrat, Walt Leger III of New Orleans, as Speaker. On the second ballot, after Republican Cameron Henry, an ally of Vitter, withdrew from consideration, a second Republican, Taylor Barras of New Iberia, was named Speaker. Since Huey Long, governors had traditionally handpicked the state house speakers. Barras's selection was considered a surprise because he had not been mentioned as a candidate until the voting started.[22]

On April 13, 2016, Edwards signed an executive order to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from harassment or job dismissals. The order prohibits state agencies from discrimination based on either gender identity or sexual orientation. The order allows an exception for religious organizations that claim that compliance would violate their religious beliefs. "We respect our fellow citizens for their beliefs, but we do not discriminate based on our disagreements. I believe in giving every Louisianan the opportunity to be successful and to thrive in our state", Edwards said.[23]

Edwards also rescinded another executive order issued in 2015 by his predecessor, Bobby Jindal, which protected businesses and nonprofit organizations that oppose same-sex marriage from being legally punished for acting on those views. This order had prohibited state agencies from penalizing businesses and individuals who refuse or limit service because of a "religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman."[24]

In 2016, Edwards enacted Medicaid expansion. By the next year, the number of Louisianans without health insurance was cut in half (11.4%, down from 22.7%).[25] According to a study conducted by LSU's E.J. Ourso College of Business, Edwards's Medicaid expansion made over 500,000 more adults eligible for Medicaid, of whom 327,000 were uninsured.[26]

Edwards promised early in 2017 that he could work with the incoming Donald Trump administration. He expressed eagerness to work with the Trump Cabinet, particularly on Medicaid expansion and federal infrastructure projects.[27]

In January 2017, Edwards traveled to Italy on a personal trip to discuss ways to combat human trafficking. He traveled with members of the Hospitaller Sisters of Mercy, who established a shelter in Baton Rouge for child victims of human trafficking. Edwards met with Pope Francis during the trip.[28][29]

Edwards campaigned on a policy to reduce Louisiana's prison population.[30] One of his first actions as governor was to commute 22 sentences out of 56 that the state's Board of Pardons had identified for him.[30] Since the end of 2016 and to July 2018, Edwards did not sign a single commutation despite at least 70 cases that the state's Board of Pardons identified for him during the period.[30] In 2018, Edwards signed legislation that shortened the sentences for nonviolent, non-sex-crime offenders who showed good behavior while in prison.[31]

In May 2018, Edwards signed a bill into law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.[32][33] In May 2019, he signed an even more restrictive six-week abortion ban, although a similar bill in the 5th Circuit, one with a similar predecessor, was blocked by Judge Carlton Reeves in the Southern District of Mississippi.[34][35][36] In response to backlash from his more progressive supporters, Edwards released a statement saying, "As governor, I have been true to my word and my beliefs on this issue. But it is also my sincere belief that being pro-life means more than just being pro-birth." He referenced his attempts to expand investment in education, reform Louisiana's criminal justice system, pass laws to protect LGBT citizens from discrimination in the workplace, raise the minimum wage, and ensure equal pay for men and women.[37][better source needed]

At the end of 2018, Edwards said that his top priority for 2019 was to achieve a $1,000 pay raise for teachers and a $500 raise for school support workers. For the first time in 10 years, the House passed a budget that included pay raises for teachers and support staff.[38][39]

On September 8, 2021, Edwards delayed all upcoming Louisiana elections five weeks after excessive statewide infrastructure damage caused by Hurricane Ida.[40] On September 12, 2021, less than two weeks after Ida crested, Edwards declared another statewide state of emergency in anticipation of Hurricane Nicholas.[41] On January 5, 2022, Edwards pardoned Homer Plessy, subject of the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld segregation laws.[42]

Cabinet and administration[edit]

The Edwards Cabinet[43][44][45]
Governor John Bel Edwards 2016–2024
Chief of Staff Ben Nevers

Mark Cooper



Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne 2016–2024
Executive Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Activities, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Board Chairman Chip Kline 2019–present
Secretary of Economic Development Don Pierson 2016–2024
Secretary of Environmental Quality Dr. Chuck Brown 2016–2024
Director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Jim Waskom 2016–2024
Secretary of Health Dr. Rebekah Gee 2016–2020
Courtney N. Phillips 2020–2024
Executive Director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission Ava Dejoie 2016–2024
Secretary of Public Safety and Corrections Jimmy LeBlanc 2008–present
Secretary of Revenue Kimberly Lewis Robinson 2016–2024
Secretary of Transportation and Development Shawn Wilson 2016–2023
Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police Colonel Michael "Mike" Edmonson 2008–2017
Colonel Kevin W. Reeves 2017–2024
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Joey Strickland 2016–2024
Secretary of Wildlife and Fisheries Charlie Melançon 2016–2017
Jack Montoucet 2017–2024
Secretary of Natural Resources Thomas Harris 2016–2024
Secretary of Children and Family Services Marketa Garner Walters 2016–2024

Personal life[edit]

Edwards and his wife, Donna Hutto Edwards, at a fundraising event in 2015

Edwards is married to Donna Hutto.[46] She graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg with a business degree in industrial management before training as a teacher.[47] They have two daughters, Sarah and Samantha Edwards, and a son, John Miller Edwards.

Edwards is a Catholic[29] and a parishioner of the St. Helena Roman Catholic Church in Amite.[48]

Edwards is the brother of Independence, Louisiana, chief of police Frank Millard Edwards, as well as Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel H. Edwards. Edwards is brother-in-law to 21st Judicial District Court Juvenile Judge Blair Downing Edwards, a Republican. In 2011, one of Edwards's brothers, Christopher Edwards, died in a car crash after his vehicle veered into oncoming traffic and collided with a UPS truck.[49]

Electoral history[edit]

Louisiana House of Representatives[edit]

Blanket primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 6,142 44%
Democratic George Tucker 2,499 18%
Democratic Michael "Mike" Jackson 2,311 16%
Democratic Walter Daniels 1,979 14%
Democratic Ivory Dyson 1,088 8%
Total 14,019 100%
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 6,825 66%
Democratic George Tucker 3,541 34%
Total 10,366 100%
Democratic hold
2011 Louisiana House of Representatives 72nd district
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards (inc.) 9,968 83%
No party Johnny "I Can" Duncan 2,032 17%
Total 12,000 100%
Democratic hold

Governor of Louisiana[edit]

Blanket primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 444,517 39.89%
Republican David Vitter 256,300 23.00%
Republican Scott Angelle 214,982 19.29%
Republican Jay Dardenne 166,656 14.96%
Democratic Cary Deaton 11,763 1.06%
Democratic S. L. Simpson 7,420 0.67%
No party Beryl Billiot 5,694 0.51%
Other Jeremy Odom 4,756 0.43%
Other Eric Paul Orgeron 2,248 0.20%
Total 1,114,336 100%
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 646,924 56.1%
Republican David Vitter 505,940 43.9%
Total 1,152,864 100%
Democratic gain from Republican
Blanket primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards (incumbent) 625,970 46.59%
Republican Eddie Rispone 368,319 27.42%
Republican Ralph Abraham 317,149 23.61%
Democratic Oscar Dantzler 10,993 0.82%
Republican Patrick Landry 10,966 0.82%
Other Gary Landrieu 10,084 0.75%
Total 1,343,481 100%
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards (incumbent) 774,469 51.3%
Republican Eddie Rispone 734,128 48.7%
Total 1,508,597 100%
Democratic hold


  1. ^ "John Bel Edwards earned a remarkable win for reelection; here's how he did it". November 17, 2019.
  2. ^ Ryan, Molly (December 22, 2023). "Louisiana Democrats ruled the state 3 decades ago. What caused the political shift?". WWNO. 89.3 WRKF Baton Rouge. Retrieved March 17, 2024.
  3. ^ Tenbarge, Ken (November 17, 2019). "John Bel Edwards was narrowly re-elected as governor of Louisiana. He's not a typical Democrat". Business Insider. Retrieved March 20, 2021.
  4. ^ O'Donoghue, Julie (December 14, 2023). "Gov. John Bel Edwards: 'I have never been less inclined to be a Republican than today'". States Newsroom. Louisiana Illuminator. Retrieved March 17, 2024.
  5. ^ Cline, Sara (January 14, 2024). "Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards will join law firm after leaving office". Associated Press. Retrieved March 17, 2024.
  6. ^ "John Bel Edwards".
  7. ^ a b Sentell, Will (September 22, 2015). "Democratic State Representative John Bel Edwards". The New Orleans World Advocate. Retrieved September 30, 2015.
  8. ^ "John Bel Edwards". LinkedIn. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  9. ^ Sentell, Will. "Gov. John Bel Edwards names nephew, former law partner to Louisiana college board". The Courier. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  10. ^ "George R Tucker: Hammond, LA Lawyer, Lawyer, Attorney, Attorneys". Archived from the original on February 18, 2012. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  11. ^ David, Brennan (November 18, 2007). "John Bel Edwards claims strong win". Hammond Daily Star. Archived from the original on January 24, 2013. Retrieved February 5, 2009.
  12. ^ Edwards, John Bel (October 23, 2010). "AWOL Jindal: Guv galavants while Louisiana languishes". Daily Star. Hammond, Louisiana. p. 5A.
  13. ^ "Louisiana House of Representatives - Internet Portal". September 1, 2006. Archived from the original on February 1, 2014. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  14. ^ Adelson, Jeff (February 10, 2013). "John Bel Edwards announces he is running for governor in 2015". The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved February 21, 2013.
  15. ^ "Results for Election Date: 10/24/2015". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved November 5, 2015.
  16. ^ "Poll: Edwards has nine point lead over Vitter in LA governor's race". October 5, 2015. Retrieved November 5, 2015.
  17. ^ "Three polls show John Bel Edwards leading David Vitter in stunning turn of events surrounding governor's race". The Baton Rouge Advocate. November 3, 2015. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved November 5, 2015.
  18. ^ "John Bel Edwards beats David Vitter to become Louisiana's next governor". The Times-Picayune. November 21, 2015. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
  19. ^ Robertson, Campbell (November 23, 2015). "Louisiana's John Bel Edwards Overcame Big Obstacles to Win Governor's Race". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  20. ^ Zhou, Li (November 14, 2019). "The only Democratic governor in the Deep South is fighting to hang onto his seat". Vox. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  21. ^ Bridges, Tyler (November 17, 2019). "John Bel Edwards earned a remarkable win for reelection; here's how he did it". The Advocate. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  22. ^ O'Donoghue, Julia (January 11, 2016). "John Bel Edwards doesn't get his pick for House speaker". Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  23. ^ "Gov. Edwards Signs Non-discrimination Executive Order; Rescinds Marriage and Conscience Executive Order | Office of the Governor of Louisiana". Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  24. ^ "Louisiana Gov. to Rescind Predecessor's Antigay Order". March 28, 2016. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  25. ^ "Louisiana uninsured rate drops since expansion of Medicaid". kentucky. Archived from the original on August 31, 2018. Retrieved August 31, 2018.
  26. ^ "New Health Insurance Study Released as State Rolls Out Medicaid Expansion". Louisiana State University. August 30, 2016. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  27. ^ Stickney, Ken (January 9, 2017). "Gov. Edwards ready to work with Trump". Lafayette Daily Advertiser. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  28. ^ Gov. John Bel Edwards paying his own way to Rome; public to pay for security, Associated Press (January 13, 2017).
  29. ^ a b CRISP, ELIZABETH (January 19, 2017). "Gov. John Bel Edwards, others from Louisiana meet Pope Francis in Italy". The Advocate. Retrieved January 8, 2023.
  30. ^ a b c "This Red State Governor Is Giving Hope To People Sentenced To Die In Prison". The Appeal. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  31. ^ Toohey, Grace; Sledge, Matt. "Louisiana reform means early release for 2,000 prisoners; see 4 of their stories". The Advocate. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  32. ^ "Democratic Louisiana governor signs 15-week abortion ban". Washington Examiner. May 30, 2018. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  33. ^ Hellmann, Jessie (May 30, 2018). "Louisiana's Dem governor signs nation's most restrictive abortion ban". The Hill. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  34. ^ BRIDGES, TYLER (June 2019). "Anti-abortion stance puts Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards at odds with much of Democratic base". The Advocate. Retrieved January 8, 2023.
  35. ^ Sherman, Carter (May 24, 2019). ""Here We Go Again:" This Judge Blocked Another Mississippi Abortion Ban and He's Tired". Vice News. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  36. ^ Fowler, Sarah. "Federal judge's questions point toward striking down Mississippi's latest abortion ban". The Clarion-Ledger. Retrieved January 8, 2023.
  37. ^ Edwards, John Bel (May 29, 2019). "My statement on the passage of SB 184 following final passage by the Louisiana Legislature. #lalege". @LouisianaGov. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  38. ^ Network, Louisiana (December 26, 2018). "Gov. Edwards: Teacher Pay Raises My No. 1 Goal For 2019". KPEL 96.5. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  39. ^ Louisiana House backs $30 billion budget, including bigger boost for teacher pay, KPEL, May 9, 2019. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  40. ^ Deslatte, Melinda (September 8, 2021). "Louisiana elections pushed back 5 weeks because of Ida". Associated Press. Retrieved September 14, 2021.
  41. ^ "Gov. Edwards Declares State of Emergency in Advance of Tropical Storm Nicholas". Office of the Governor of Louisiana. September 12, 2021. Retrieved September 14, 2021.
  42. ^ "Homer Plessy: Pardon for 'separate but equal' civil rights figure". BBC News. January 5, 2022. Retrieved January 6, 2022.
  43. ^ "The Cabinet | Office of Governor John Bel Edwards". Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  44. ^ "Edwards makes key cabinet appointments". Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  45. ^ Crisp, Elizabeth (July 9, 2017). "Meet Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards' new top aide who's 'maybe not your traditional type of chief of staff'". The Advocate. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  46. ^ "Thirty-one years of marriage down and many more to go. @FirstLadyOfLA has been by my side since we began dating in 1981, and our love grows stronger every day. I give thanks daily for the life that we are blessed to share. Happy anniversary, Donna, I love you! — JBE #lagov". Twitter.
  47. ^ "Donna Edwards – First Lady of Louisiana". Thrive Magazine. Archived from the original on January 15, 2021. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
  48. ^ "The America Profile: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, the pro-life Catholic Democrat". America Magazine. December 14, 2018. Retrieved January 8, 2023.
  49. ^ "Fatal crash kills brother of Tangipahoa Parish sheriff". The Advocate. Retrieved August 19, 2018.

External links[edit]

Louisiana House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives
from the 72nd district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Minority Leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Louisiana
2015, 2019
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Louisiana
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former Governor Order of precedence of the United States
Within Louisiana
Succeeded byas Former Governor
Order of precedence of the United States
Outside Louisiana
Succeeded byas Former Governor