Two Democratic governors, Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, are among those who have received generally positive national notices for their responses to the coronavirus in their state.
Add a third to that list: Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, who is winning bipartisan compliments for his ability to deliver for his state and to get along with President Trump.
Louisiana, especially the New Orleans area, had an early breakout of virus cases, and toward the end of March, Edwards said the state needed 12,000 more ventilators for an expected rush of patients. Three days later, the governor publicly thanked the president for his help in obtaining more ventilators, and Edwards repeated his gratitude shortly afterward, even though the federal government only sent 150 of the devices.
A Washington Post story said Edwards, a U.S. Military Academy graduate and former 82nd Airborne captain, is a methodical worker for Louisiana’s interests who does not hesitate to identify areas in which he believes federal assistance is lagging. But he has done this, the newspaper added, “in a manner that Trump hasn’t interpreted as criticism of his leadership.”
This is somewhat surprising, given the backstory between the two men. During last year’s governor’s race in Louisiana, Trump held three rallies for Edwards’ Republican opponent and said voting for Edwards would be like voting for radical leftists.
Edwards never responded directly, apparently realizing that if he got re-elected, he would need to have a decent relationship with the president. That turned out to be a good decision. The governor’s ability to work with Trump to get Louisiana’s fair share of federal assistance is only one aspect of his efforts that are getting positive attention.
On March 23, just two weeks after the state’s first coronavirus infection, Edwards was one of three governors to issue a stay-at-home order to the public. Only California, Illinois and New York had done the same thing before that.
Many other states, including Mississippi, followed suit within two weeks. But Edwards put Louisiana ahead of the national curve, and health officials believe it is paying off. While the state still has an unusually large number of virus cases, the situation never became as dire as even the governor anticipated. Louisiana has not needed anywhere near the 12,000 ventilators Edwards originally sought.
Further, Edwards’ Army training in crisis management has served him well as governor, as has the fact that his mother’s career as a nurse gave him valuable exposure to the medical profession.
Edwards says he’s simply using the same approach as he did in 2016 with President Obama, when record flooding put much of south Louisiana under water.
Whatever he’s doing now, it has worked. Edwards already was a rarity as a twice-elected Democratic governor in the South. But the coronavirus has put him in a league of his own: a Southern Democrat whose leadership is being praised by both parties in his state.