The Louisiana governor’s race continues to draw national attention as candidates snipe at each other with less than eight months until Election Day.

In the past week, Democratic incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards has faced criticism from his Republican opponents, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, of Alto, and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, over a business summit and the governor’s executive budget proposal for the coming year.

Edwards, meanwhile, has recently mourned the death of his former campaign manager and traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with other governors and members of President Donald Trump’s administration, while releasing his second digital ad highlighting his tenure as governor.

“We still have work to do, but Louisiana is better off under Gov. Edwards’ leadership,” Edwards campaign manager, Richard Carbo, said in a statement. “His opponents want to take Louisiana back to the policies of the Jindal administration that led to record deficits, but Louisianans don't want to go back.”

Hundreds of people attended a business summit organized by Edwards' office last week — an event that his opponents in the governor’s race and the state GOP officials derided as a thinly veiled campaign pitch.

The Louisiana Republican Party filed a public records request seeking information from Edwards' office about the summit.

"This intersection of state officials and campaign donors raises the question: is the governor using state funds and resources to host a campaign event?" LAGOP Executive Director Andrew Bautsch wrote in the request that the party released to the media Monday.

Edwards' deputy chief of staff, Christina Stephens, denied the GOP's insinuations about the summit's purpose and said it was the culmination of several roundtable discussions Edwards has had with business leaders across the state since taking office in January 2016.

"Thursday’s event is a chance for administration leaders and the governor to interact with businesses, facilitate discussion on key issues and highlight some of the great work being done by companies and groups in Louisiana," Stephens said. "That’s what this event is about, period."

Edwards delivered a keynote address at the event, after an introduction from LSU football coach Ed Orgeron.

“Our elected leaders should not be using taxpayer funds to further their personal political objectives," LAGOP Chairman Louis Gurvich said in a statement. "The timing and choice of speakers at this summit raises serious questions for Governor Edwards, and the people of Louisiana deserve answers.”

Edwards' re-election bid has already drawn national interest from Republicans hoping to unseat the only Democratic governor in the Deep South and Democrats hoping to hold onto the Louisiana Governor's Mansion. Edwards, who splits with his party’s platform by being anti-abortion, didn’t take part in a Democratic Governors Association news conference in Washington on Saturday, despite being in the nation’s capital for the National Governors Association meeting, at which he served on a panel about disaster recovery.

Both the DGA and the Republican Governors Association have already been weighing in on the governor’s race here this year.

The election is Oct. 12. A Nov. 16 runoff will take place if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary.

In addition to Rispone and Abraham, other candidates could enter the race before the August qualifying deadline, and some high-profile Republicans continue to publicly float the possibility of another Republican entering the race.

“I’ve been getting a lot of chatter about, ‘Is this the field?’ ” LAGOP rules chair Scott Wilfong said in a recent interview on WRKF-FM radio. "There’s definitely some movement to try to get another candidate into the race.”

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, Attorney General Jeff Landry and U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise have all said they won’t run against Edwards.

After three years of budget crises as the state spent more than it collected in revenue, the financial outlook for the state appears to be settling, according to the state’s economists.

Edwards’ administration unveiled his executive budget proposal for the cycle that starts July 1 on Friday, but it budgeted for the amount of revenue he expects will be available, after House Republicans repeatedly blocked attempts to increase the state’s official revenue outlook, despite updated projections from the economists.

Both of his Republican opponents pounced on Edwards’ method of presenting a budget that included a slight increase in funding for higher education and an across-the-board pay raise for schoolteachers.

“Louisiana needs a budget based in reality, not fake math,” Rispone tweeted. “We don’t have a funding problem — our problem is that Gov. Edwards is a tax and spend liberal who does not know how to manage a checkbook. We need a conservative outsider as our next governor, not a career politician.”

Abraham, meanwhile, accused the governor of presenting an “imaginary budget … based on a promise he already broke.”

During his first campaign for governor, Edwards said he thought that the state budget issues could be addressed without a tax hike. After taking office, he said he discovered the state’s finances were worse than he had thought and he supported increasing the state sales tax by a penny to 5 cents per dollar. The sales tax hike would have expired last June, but lawmakers, at Edwards’ urging, agreed to extend .45 percent of the hike, making the state sales tax rate 4.45 percent as of July 1. Without that action, it otherwise would have reverted to the 4 percent level that it was when Edwards took office.

“He raises your taxes by $1, lowers them by 50 cents, and tells you he cut spending,” Abraham tweeted. “Sounds like Common Core math to me.”

Both Republican challengers have largely focused their campaigns on Edwards, though only one of them will have a chance to face him in the runoff, if one is needed. But Rispone’s campaign also appeared to enter into taking a dig at Abraham’s campaign last week over the size of their campaign accounts.

According to campaign finance reports that were recently filed, Abraham had raised nearly $357,000 between his early December campaign announcement and the end of the year. He closed out 2018 with about $350,000 in the bank.

Rispone, who is running for office for the first time, reported $5.5 million in his campaign coffers, including $5 million of his own money and $550,000 he raised from donors since launching his campaign in October.

Edwards reported having about $8.4 million in cash on hand to fuel his re-election bid.

“The money discrepancy is huge," Wilfong, the Republican official, said during his interview on WRKF. "I know there is a movement to get another candidate in the race. If that will be successful or not, I don’t know.”

Some Republican leaders previously have voiced a preference for having one candidate in the race to create a direct matchup against Edwards and prevent party infighting during the primary.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.