John Bel Edwards

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John Bel Edwards
John Bel Edwards.jpg
56th Governor of Louisiana
Assumed office
January 11, 2016
LieutenantBilly Nungesser
Preceded byBobby Jindal
Minority Leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives
In office
January 9, 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 52)
Amite, Louisiana, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Donna Hutto
ResidenceGovernor's Mansion
EducationUnited States Military Academy (BS)
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge (JD)
WebsiteGovernment website
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch 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 lawyer serving as the 56th and current Governor of Louisiana since 2016. He was previously the Minority Leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives for two terms. He left the state legislature to run for governor in 2015. A member of the Democratic Party, he defeated Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter in the second round of the 2015 election. He is a United States Army veteran, having served with the 82nd Airborne Division.

Early life and career[edit]

Edwards was born and raised in Amite, Louisiana, the son of Dora Jean (née Miller) and Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Frank M. Edwards, Jr., a member of the administration of Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards (no known family relation). Edwards graduated from Amite High School in 1984 as valedictorian. In 1988, Edwards received a bachelor's degree 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.[1]

Edwards completed Airborne School in 1986, while he was a student at West Point. After receiving his commission, he completed the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning (1988), Ranger School (1989), and the Infantry Officer Advanced Course (1992). Edwards served in the Army for eight years, mostly in the 25th Infantry Division and 82nd Airborne Division, including commanding a company in the 82nd's 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He ended his military career to return to Louisiana because of family considerations. Edwards earned a law degree from the Louisiana State University's Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 1999, and he was a practicing attorney with the Edwards & Associates Law Firm in Amite. As an attorney, Edwards handled a variety of cases, though he did not practice criminal law because of his brother's status as the local sheriff.[1]

Legislative career[edit]

Edwards is a conservative Democrat who is pro-life and pro-gun rights.[2] In 2008, Edwards ran for a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives. Edwards was forced into a general election run-off with fellow attorney George Tucker.[3] Edwards was overwhelmingly elected, winning every parish in the district.[4] Edwards was the only freshman lawmaker to chair a committee in the legislature. Edwards chaired the Veterans Affairs Committee in the House. Edwards was also selected as chairman of the Democratic house caucus, a rarity for a freshman legislator. Edwards became a critic of Governor Bobby Jindal for the governor's frequent trips away from Louisiana to raise political funds for Republicans elsewhere while Louisiana has been reducing its funding for higher education.

In 2011, Edwards was re-elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives, having defeated opponent Johnny Duncan, 83 to 17 percent.[5] Edwards served as chairman of the Louisiana House Democratic Caucus, making him the Louisiana House Minority Leader.[6] Cities/towns that Edwards represented included Amite, Greensburg, and Kentwood as well as part of Hammond.

Gubernatorial campaign[edit]

On February 21, 2013, Edwards announced that he would run for governor in 2015. He said that his state needs "a healthy dose of common sense and compassion for ordinary people".[7] The only major Democrat in the race, Edwards polled first in the nonpartisan blanket primary with 444,517 votes (39.9 percent), followed by Vitter, who finished second with 256,300 votes (23 percent). In third place was Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle of Breaux Bridge, who received 214,982 votes (19.3 percent).[8]

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

On November 5, 2015, Jay Dardenne of Baton Rouge, the outgoing Republican lieutenant governor, who placed fourth in the gubernatorial primary election with 166,656 (15 percent),[8] endorsed Democrat Edwards in the forthcoming race against Senator Vitter. Dardenne made his announcement at "Free Speech Alley" in front of the LSU Student Union building in Baton Rouge.[9]

Meanwhile, the Republican Governors Association entered the Louisiana campaign in support of Vitter with an advertisement highlighting Edwards' past support for President Barack Obama, who twice lost Louisiana's electoral votes. Edwards was a delegate for Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.[10] Edwards supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

A statewide poll prior to the primary showed Edwards with a nine-point lead over Vitter. The JMC Analytics survey placed Edwards at 28 percent, instead of the actual 40 percent, and Vitter with 19 percent, rather than his actual 23 percent.[11] After the primary polls showed Edwards with a commanding lead. Market Research Insight pollster Verne Kennedy placed Edwards ahead, 54 to 38 percent or 51 to 40 percent, depending on the level of turnout among African-American voters, 25 or 20 percent.[12]

In the runoff on November 21, 2015, Edwards won the election with 56.1 percent of the vote.[13]

Governor of Louisiana (2016–present)[edit]

Gov. Edwards meets with Louisiana National Guardsmen in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, March 2016

On his inauguration day, Edwards failed to persuade the majority-Republican Louisiana House to choose a Democrat, Walt Leger III of New Orleans, as the Speaker. On the second ballot, after Republican Cameron Henry, an ally of Senator David 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. The Barras selection was considered a surprise because he had not even been mentioned as a candidate until the voting started.[14]

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 who 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.[15]

The governor also rescinded another executive order issued in 2015 by his predecessor, Bobby Jindal, which protected businesses and nonprofit organizations who oppose same-sex marriage from being legally punished for holding those views. This order had prohibited state agencies from penalizing businesses and individuals who act from a "religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman."[16]

In 2016, Edwards enacted Medicaid expansion. By the next year, the number of Louisiana individuals without health insurance was cut in half (11.4%, which was down from 22.7%).[17]

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 the issues of Medicaid expansion and federal infrastructure projects.[18]

In February 2017, Edwards and other state officials went to Italy, where he met with Pope Francis.[19]

Edwards campaigned on a policy to reduce the prison population in Louisiana.[20] 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.[20] 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.[20] In May of 2018, Edwards signed a bill into law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.[21][22] In 2018, Edwards signed legislation that shortened the sentences for nonviolent, non-sex-crime offenders who showed good behavior while in prison.[23]

Cabinet and administration[edit]

The Edwards Cabinet[24][25]
Governor John Bel Edwards 2016–present
Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne 2016–present
Executive Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Activities, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Board Chairman Johnny Bradberry 2016–present
Secretary of Economic Development Don Pierson 2016–present
Secretary of Environmental Quality Dr. Chuck Brown 2016–present
Director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Jim Waskom 2016–present
Secretary of Health and Hospitals Rebekah E. Gee 2016–present
Executive Director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission Ava Dejoie 2016–present
Secretary of Public Safety and Corrections Jimmy LeBlanc 2008–present
Secretary of Revenue Kimberly Lewis Robinson 2016–present
Secretary of Transportation and Development Dr. Shawn Wilson 2016–present
Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police Colonel Kevin Reeves 2008–2017
Colonel Kevin W. Reeves 2017–present
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Joey Strickland 2016–present
Secretary of Wildlife and Fisheries Charlie Melancon 2016–2017
Jack Montoucet 2017–present
Secretary of Natural Resources Thomas Harris 2016–present
Secretary of Children and Family Services Marketa Garner Walters 2016–present

Personal life and family[edit]

Edwards and his wife, the former Donna Hutto (born February 1967), have two daughters, Sarah and Samantha Edwards, and one son, John Miller Edwards. John Bel Edwards is a regular parishioner of the St. Helena Roman Catholic Church in Amite.[26] 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 Edward's brothers, Christopher Edwards, died in a car crash after his vehicle veered into oncoming traffic and collided with a UPS truck.[27] In 2014, Edwards and other members of his Tangipahoa Parish political family were inducted as a group into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame Winnfield.

Electoral history[edit]

Edwards with a constituent in 2010

2007 Louisiana House of Representatives 72nd district election[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 election for Louisiana House of Representatives 72nd district[edit]

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

Louisiana gubernatorial election, 2015[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


  1. ^ a b Sentell, Will (September 22, 2015). "Democratic State Representative John Bel Edwards". The New Orleans World Advocate. Retrieved September 30, 2015.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "George R Tucker: Hammond, LA Lawyer, Lawyer, Attorney, Attorneys". Archived from the original on February 18, 2012. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  4. ^ David, Brennan (November 18, 2007). "John Bel Edwards claims strong win". Hammond Daily Star. Retrieved February 5, 2009.
  5. ^ Edwards, John Bel (October 23, 2010). "AWOL Jindal: Guv galavants while Louisiana languishes". Daily Star. Hammond, Louisiana. p. 5A.
  6. ^ "Louisiana House of Representatives - Internet Portal". September 1, 2006. Archived from the original on February 1, 2014. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ a b "Results for Election Date: 10/24/2015". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved November 5, 2015.
  9. ^ Hilburn, Greg (November 5, 2015). "Republican Dardenne Endorses Democrat Edwards". The Shreveport Times. Archived from the original on December 18, 2015.
  10. ^ Elizabeth Crisp (October 9, 2015). "Republican governors group weighs in on Louisiana governor's race with ad targeting John Bel Edwards". The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved November 5, 2015.
  11. ^ "Poll: Edwards has nine point lead over Vitter in LA governor's race". October 5, 2015. Retrieved November 5, 2015.
  12. ^ "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. Retrieved November 5, 2015.
  13. ^ "John Bel Edwards beats David Vitter to become Louisiana's next governor". The Times-Picayune. November 21, 2015. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Gov. Edwards Signs Non-discrimination Executive Order; Rescinds Marriage and Conscience Executive Order | Office of the Governor of Louisiana". Retrieved 2017-01-24.
  16. ^ "Louisiana Gov. to Rescind Predecessor's Antigay Order". 2016-03-28. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
  17. ^ "Louisiana uninsured rate drops since expansion of Medicaid". kentucky. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  18. ^ Ken Stickney (January 9, 2017). "Gov. Edwards ready to work with Trump". Lafayette Daily Advertiser. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  19. ^ KEEL Radio, January 19, 2017
  20. ^ a b c "This Red State Governor Is Giving Hope To People Sentenced To Die In Prison". The Appeal. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
  21. ^ "Democratic Louisiana governor signs 15-week abortion ban". Washington Examiner. 2018-05-30. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  22. ^ Hellmann, Jessie (2018-05-30). "Louisiana's Dem governor signs nation's most restrictive abortion ban". TheHill. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  23. ^, GRACE TOOHEY and MATT SLEDGE |;. "Louisiana reform means early release for 2,000 prisoners; see 4 of their stories". The Advocate. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ Amite, seat of Tangipahoa Parish, was originally in that part of the church parish of Saint Helena which in 1869 was carved from Saint Helena Parish to form the civil parish of Tangipahoa.
  27. ^ report, Advocate staff. "Fatal crash kills brother of Tangipahoa Parish sheriff". The Advocate. Retrieved 2018-08-19.

External links[edit]

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

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