BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Republican candidate for Louisiana governor Eddie Rispone struck at Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards' military background in an interview Friday, prompting outrage from Edwards who called his challenger "desperate."
Rispone told an Alexandria radio station that the Deep South's only Democratic governor, a West Point graduate, has damaged the military academy's reputation because of his work as a trial lawyer.
In the interview with KSYL-AM, Rispone contrasted Edwards' background as a lawyer with his own work as a business owner - and then was asked about the incumbent governor's military experience.
"I'm disappointed in that, if I have to be candid, you know. I think he's hurt the reputation of West Point," Rispone replied. "I don't think West Point wants to turn out a bunch of trial lawyers that will say or do anything to stay in power."
Edwards called the comments offensive and said he's heard from West Point classmates who objected to Rispone's criticism. Edwards noted he's listed as a "distinguished alumnus" at the military academy.
"It's really not a very smart way to go about running for office, to denigrate the service of someone who actually served, especially when the comments come from someone who did not serve," Edwards said.
The remarks gave Edwards, who is locked in a tight race with Rispone, an opportunity to highlight his military service, both at West Point and his active duty tenure as an Army Ranger. Edwards said he left the military to spend more time with his family after his first daughter, Samantha, was born with spina bifida.
Rispone doubled down on his radio interview comments on Twitter and in a statement after Edwards called them offensive. Rispone described Edwards' objections as "fake liberal outrage."
— Eddie Rispone (@EddieRispone) November 1, 2019
"Don't fall for his typical trial lawyer act. I love our veterans, their service and West Point - and we can't thank them enough," Rispone said in a statement. "The only thing being attacked here is Edwards' liberal trial lawyer, car insurance raising, job losing, economy draining record."
Edwards described his law practice in his hometown of Amite as wide-ranging, doing contract reviews, drawing up wills and representing people and small businesses both as plaintiffs and defendants.
Early voting in the Nov. 16 election starts Saturday.