LAFAYETTE — Heading into the final month of the campaign for district attorney, challenger Keith Stutes is pulling in more cash from supporters than incumbent DA Mike Harson, campaign finance disclosures show.
Harson, who has served as the 15th Judicial District’s chief prosecutor since January 1993, received $72,460 from contributors in the period from July 28 to Sept. 25.
Stutes reeled in $114,293 from contributors during the two-month period. Stutes, who retired in early 2014 after years as first assistant district attorney, is giving Harson his first election competition in 20 years.
Monday was the deadline for filing campaign finance figures with state officials. The election is Nov. 4. Early voting runs Oct. 21 to Oct. 28. The 15th Judicial District covers Lafayette, Vermilion and Acadia parishes.
Stutes said Tuesday that the contributions he has received over the two-month period are a reflection of growing public support for his campaign.
“There’s a lot of passionate support,” he said. “Maybe it’s just the will of the people.”
Stutes said he’s hitting his campaign stride right now and feels good about polls showing him leading in the race. “I’ve got more energy now than when I began.”
Harson did not answer an email Tuesday seeking comment.
On his campaign Facebook page, Harson acknowledged that Stutes out gained him on the fundraising funds. But Harson said he has greater name recognition and that he expects television advertising closer to the election to give him a boost.
He said his campaign has “already bought all out television through the end of the campaign, the other guy (Stutes) has not,” according to a post Tuesday on the Facebook page. “As you know, television is the most expensive part of the campaign and we have already reserved our space.”
The reports show both men spent heavily in August and September on television ads.
Harson spent over $62,000 with KATC-TV, Lafayette’s ABC affiliate, during the two months. At KLFY, the CBS station in Lafayette, his campaign spent over $60,000, according to records with the state Board of Ethics, which has oversight of political contributions in Louisiana.
Harson, a Democrat, also paid Arsemont Media Group more than $47,000 in consulting fees and other goods during the period.
Stutes’ campaign paid Cox Media, a company owned by cable TV provider Cox Communications, more than $92,000 to buy air time on the local television stations.
Stutes, a Republican, paid political consultant Hilary Castille $18,500 during the two months.
http://theadvocate.com/home/8422068-125/harson-stutes-battle-in-15th-judicial">Harson was seen as vulnerable — two former U.S. attorneys in Lafayette have endorsed Stutes — after the eruption of an in-house scandal at the District Attorney’s Office. Barna Haynes, Harson’s longtime office manager, has pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting tens of thousands of dollars for illegal plea deals involving drunk driving charges.
Haynes has not been sentenced. She is expected to testify at a trial of a former private investigator who allegedly hatched the plea-deal plot and carried it out with the aid of Haynes and others in the District Attorney’s Office, including one prosecutor who has also been charged in the case.
The trial of private investigator Robert Williamson was to start in October, during the heat of the campaign. It was postponed until December.
Harson has not been charged on the long-evolving federal probe.