Gubernatorial contenders say voter trust needed before highway boosts _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Gubernatorial candidates. From left at table, John Bel Edwards, David Vitter, Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle.

The race to replace Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is shaping up to be one of the most expensive competitive gubernatorial campaigns in the state’s history.

Based on campaign finance reports filed this week, Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter is leading the pack, having raised $1.14 million since the beginning of the 2015. Vitter’s campaign has $4.2 million in the bank, with six months left until Election Day.

A separate pro-Vitter political action committee, the Fund for Louisiana’s Future, meanwhile, reported having raised $677,000 so far this year and has $3.55 million cash remaining.

“We are getting an incredible response all across Louisiana who want to join our campaign to build a brighter future for Louisiana,” Vitter said in a statement on his fundraising efforts. “We face enormous challenges in Louisiana. But if we meet them head on — with strong leadership and real solutions — we can take advantage of historic opportunities and make great gains. This outpouring of support gives us real momentum to accomplish our goals.”

Vitter faces Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite, in the Oct. 24 election. A runoff will be held Nov. 21 if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote.

The reports filed this week, which cover Jan. 1 to April 17, reflect a brisk fundraising period for the four major gubernatorial candidates. Jindal, a Republican who is considering a run for president in 2016, can’t seek re-election this year because of a term limit.

On the fundraising side, Angelle’s campaign raised $641,000 during the reporting period and had $1.2 million left in its coffers. Louisiana Rising PAC, which is reportedly supporting Angelle’s candidacy, had not filed a first quarter report as of Tuesday evening.

Dardenne has raised about $520,000 in 2015. His campaign reported having $1.8 million cash remaining. Now or Never PAC, which has come out in favor of Dardenne, also had not filed a first quarter report as of Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, Edwards’ campaign raised about $230,000 during the first quarter of the year, ending with $894,000 cash on hand.

Jindal spent about $10 million in 2011 to run a largely unchallenged bid for a second term. He won the primary outright with about 66 percent of the vote. During the last open race for the governor’s office, the four best-financed candidates spent about $32 million combined.

The major candidates this cycle spent $1.8 million just the first quarter of 2015, not counting expenditures for the two PACs that had not yet filed.

Under campaign finance laws, the PACs can’t collaborate with the candidate’s official campaigns. Much of the money that the pro-Vitter Fund for Louisiana’s Future PAC spent went toward consulting and opposition research. America Rising, a well-known Republican opposition research firm, was paid at least $16,000. An America Rising campaign tracker has been spotted at several events, recording gubernatorial candidates’ appearances.

Angelle’s campaign has spent the most this year at $851,000, which has included consulting fees as well as early television commercials in the race. Angelle, of Breaux Bridge, has been on an aggressive campaign introducing himself to voters. He briefly was appointed lieutenant governor in 2010 after Mitch Landrieu became mayor of New Orleans.

Dardenne and Edwards each spent less than $200,000 since the first of the year, while Vitter’s campaign spent about $372,000 during the reporting period.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of Louisiana state government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .