GONZALES — Gonzales City Councilman Kenny Matassa closed within $56,500 of Ascension Parish Councilman Chris Loar in the campaign funding race for Ascension Parish president, ensuring both men had war chests topping $100,000, while surveyor Clint Cointment trailed well behind with the Oct. 24 election only weeks away.
Despite a late start to Matassa’s election bid, he raised $167,780 between Jan. 1 and Sept. 24, the finance reporting deadline, which was more than twice as much as Loar raised during the same period, campaign reports say.
But Loar, who announced his campaign seven months before Matassa in July 2014, still had the most money, $158,796, on hand for the election’s home stretch. As of Sept. 24, Matassa had $102,294 on hand.
Loar started 2015 with $145,724 in his campaign account and raised another $70,530 through Sept. 24. So far, he’s spent $57,457, reports say.
Loar, Matassa, Cointment, retired worker and businessman Clarence Henry Jr. and safety administrator Ricky Diggs are seeking to replace four-term Parish President Tommy Martinez in the primary.
Cointment was the only other candidate to post sizeable campaign donations this year.
He has said he is pursuing a grass-roots campaign that eschews a big dollar effort fueled with donations from special interests, raised $47,214 in cash and in-kind contributions. He also loaned his campaign another $3,800, reports say.
But Cointment had spent most of his funding, $47,611 and, as of Sept. 24 had $26,487 on hand, only $1,133 more than he started with in early January.
Loar, Cointment and Matassa each said they had enough money to last through the first primary but would need to do additional fundraising if they made the runoff.
Loar and Matassa said they planned to start spending their reserves on media in the final weeks of the campaign. While Loar was less willing to reveal any details, Matassa said he has begun TV advertising on Eatel and Cox with a “pretty heavy” buy. Some of those commercials have since begun airing in Ascension Parish.
Helping Loar to fatten his war chest was Baton Rouge businessman and conservative activist Lane Grigsby.
Grigsby, the founder of Cajun Industries based just over the East Baton Rouge Parish line from Loar’s Prairieville home, is known for his support of political candidates who line up with his viewpoints.
Since the start of 2014, Grigsby has personally given $570,233 to an array of candidates and elected officials.
Grigsby, his family members and executives with Cajun Industries and their spouses gave Loar at least $20,000 this year. Loar said he interviewed with Grigsby and was happy to have his backing.
“We have a very similar business philosophy and philosophy about good government,” Loar said.
Grigsby did not return messages requesting comment.
Loar’s total from Grigsby and his allies came close to the $28,800 that Loar collected this year from all of his contributors with Ascension Parish addresses.
While Grigsby did give Matassa $2,500 in August, Matassa’s most generous contributors were members of the Boyce family, James Jr. and James III, and one their companies, Cousin’s Farm Enterprises of Gonzales. The business people with convenience stores and large landholdings each gave Matassa the maximum contribution allowed, $2,500, resulting in a combined $7,500.
Cointment saw support from Republican Party officials and onetime parish government activist Kathryn Goppelt and her husband, V. Louis Goppelt, who gave a combined $2,750. Theresa Robert, an ally of the Goppelts in their scrutiny of parish government, and her husband and restaurateur, Al Robert, gave a combined $3,600 in cash and in-kind contributions.
Matassa relied on strength in Donaldsonville, where he grew up, and in Gonzales, where he lives, and strong contributions from companies that have done business with the city and parish government.
Matassa received $36,655 from businesses and individuals in Gonzales and another $13,875 from those in Donaldsonville.
But he also received the broadest support from companies and their executives who do or have done business with the city, parish or both. Most of these companies are outside the parish.
He received at least $5,500 from companies that have worked with the city in the past four years and at least another $17,050 from companies that have worked with the parish the past two years, an analysis of his report shows. At least another $17,600 came from companies and executives that have done business with both the parish and the city.
The largest of those contributors were two engineering firms or companies owned by their executives.
New Orleans engineering firm Burk Kleinpeter Inc., which designed the Marvin J. Braud Pumping Station expansion for the parish, gave Matassa $4,500 through the firm and President and CEO George Kleinpeter Jr.
Meyer Engineers, of Metairie, and R.M. Development, a company owned by Meyer Engineers’ top executives, Richard and Charles Meyer, gave a combined $5,000.
Meyer Engineers has done design for water lines and ballfields in the city, officials said.
While Loar saw solid backing from developers, engineering firms and other businesses, he pulled in at least $4,900 this year from those doing business with the parish. He received at least $12,500 in 2014.
Four companies were the biggest givers this year, each giving $1,000, including Neel Schaffer and HNTB Corp.
Cointment also drew some funding from local survey companies or development companies he has done business with in the past.
Henry had not filed a report as of Thursday, while Diggs contributed $244 to his campaign and spent it on campaign fliers.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.