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By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) — Democrat John Bel Edwards won election on Saturday as the next governor of Louisiana, staking a rare victory for his party in the conservative U.S. South, daily newspaper The Advocate and WWL-TV projected.

Edwards, a 49-year-old state legislator, defeated Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter in a hotly contested runoff election that defied the political headwinds in a state where Republicans currently hold all statewide offices.

Vitter, 54, was haunted during the race by his entanglement in a 2007 prostitution scandal in Washington. After a bruising primary last month left state Republicans divided, Edwards seized the opening to become the only Democratic governor south of Virginia.

Edwards, an anti-abortion, pro-gun Democrat, will replace outgoing Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, who is unpopular in his state and barred by term limits from seeking re-election. Jindal did not endorse a candidate.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein. Editing by Kevin Murphy.)

Photo: Louisiana Gubernatorial candidate John Bel Edwards speaks to reporters during a Veterans Day event in Baton Rouge, Louisiana November 11, 2015. REUTERS/Lee Celano

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.