For the first time since entering New Orleans' mayoral race, Desiree Charbonnet's fundraising lagged behind her top opponents in September, according to campaign finance reports released Wednesday.
But Charbonnet is well-poised for the final days before the Oct. 14 primary, when campaigns would rather be spending money than focusing on raking it in.
She entered the final phase of the campaign with more than twice as much in the bank as Michael Bagneris and LaToya Cantrell, her top two opponents, combined, and she still dominates them in the total amounts they have raised.
Campaign finance reports filed Wednesday, the last regular reports required before the primary, also showed a political action committee backing Troy Henry's campaign was funded by a handful of largely Republican businessmen. Henry, like all the other major candidates, is a Democrat.
But mystery still surrounds Not For Sale NOLA, another PAC that has featured prominently in the race by producing anti-Charbonnet mailers and ads. That group had not filed its report as of press time Wednesday.
The reports cover the period from Sept. 5 to Sept. 24.
For the first time since entering the race, Charbonnet's report showed her lagging behind her opponents in bringing in new money. The former Municipal Court judge brought in just under $115,500 in the period.
Charbonnet has consistently dominated the fundraising since the race began, raising a total of $1.3 million, largely at the beginning of the campaign.
Even after spending $247,300 in September — which meant that, like the other campaigns, money was going out faster than it was coming in — Charbonnet's campaign entered the final weeks with nearly $345,300 on hand.
That's far more than the $99,000 Cantrell, a City Council member, had for the final campaign push.
Cantrell can claim the top fundraising spot in the final reports, having taken in about $149,400 since Sept. 5. That was enough to keep her campaign afloat as it spent $173,400 over the same period.
The story was much the same for Bagneris, a former Civil District Court judge, who raised $115,500.
Bagneris' fundraising has been the least predictable this cycle. After starting the race largely with his own money and little outside backing, he saw a surge over the summer as businessmen led by Frank Stewart started to rally behind his campaign.
But Bagneris has little left in the race's waning days. After spending almost $155,900, he had only about $63,000 on hand.
Wednesday's reports also lifted the curtain on the donors who gave local business consultant Henry a last-minute boost in the race. The filings showed it’s mostly Republican businessmen backing him.
Eight donors contributed a total of $95,000 to the Louisiana Common Sense Fund, a political action committee supporting Henry’s campaign.
It was the first time the Common Sense committee was required to file, given the date it was formed and began raising money.
The checks were largely written either by GOP businessmen or companies they own. That list includes Shane Guidry, of Harvey Gulf International Marine, possibly the biggest GOP donor in the state, and ZLN Holdings, owned by businessman John Georges. Each gave $25,000.
Georges — a former Democrat who switched parties this year — also owns The Advocate, which does not endorse candidates.
Guidry said in an email Wednesday that he gave the money after Georges asked him to pitch in to the PAC.
Also throwing in $25,000 was LB Interests Inc., which is owned by Todd Graves of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers.
Other donors included Donald Rouse of Rouse’s Supermarkets; Cajun Concrete Services, owned by Wesley Palmisano of Palmisano Construction; and Bollinger Shipyards, run by Ben Bordelon. Each gave $5,000.
Walk On's Enterprises — which is co-owned by Brandon Landry, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Rick Farrell — also pitched in $5,000.
Almost all the donors were Republicans.
Henry has said that while he doesn't know who's supporting him, he's "thankful for their efforts."
The extra spending does not seem to have helped him much in the polls, however. Henry, who along with Georges made an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2010, has been unable to match the name recognition or fundraising of Bagneris, Cantrell and Charbonnet.
A recent poll paid for by The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV found Henry was the favorite of only 4 percent of voters surveyed, far behind the three leading candidates.
Meanwhile, Henry, on his own, has raised only $25,880 since January. Even combined with the PAC's money, that's well behind the amounts raised by Bagneris, Cantrell and Charbonnet.
Common Sense, launched in August, has paid for a video shoot, digital advertising, other media buys and consulting. By law, it was not allowed to coordinate its efforts with Henry's campaign.