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U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, speaks during a forum on healthcare during the Southern Republican Leadership Conference Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, at the Pontchartrain Convention and Civic Center in Kenner.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham is coming under fire for skipping votes in Washington, while he campaigns for governor in Louisiana – facing web ads from Democrats and jabs from Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards’ team.

Since announcing his campaign to unseat Edwards, who is in his first term, Abraham has missed nearly two-dozen votes, including some during the recent partial federal government shutdown that sought to reopen government.

Other votes he missed included legislation that would impact recreational fishing and the reauthorization of funding for rural health offices.

During that time, Abraham, a three-term congressman from North Louisiana who has not previously run for statewide office, has held several fundraisers in the state as he’s tried to build up his political war chest, including in Baton Rouge, Lake Providence  and Alexandria. His campaign hasn’t yet revealed how much money he has in the bank heading into this fall’s election.

Campaign finance reports are due Feb. 15, which will provide more insight into campaign spending and top tier donors.

Edwards’ campaign announced last month that the incumbent was heading into 2019 with nearly $8.4 million in his campaign coffers, after raising $3.8 million in 2018.

Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, the other Republican who has announced that he’s running for governor, is expected to report $5.5 million cash on hand, about $5 million of which Rispone has put up himself. He raised half a million after establishing a campaign committee in October.

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

Edwards, who has been in office since January 2016, is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South and the Louisiana race is seen as a priority for Republicans nationally this year.

American Bridge, a Democrat-backing super PAC that specializes in opposition research, recently launched a digital ad across the state to highlight Abraham’s missed votes.

“If 80 percent of success is showing up, Congressman Ralph Abraham failed miserably,” American Bridge spokesman Zach Hudson said. “Louisianans saw firsthand during the shutdown that Ralph Abraham won’t show up for them when they need it. What will it take for Abraham to actually do his job?”

The group also steadily released video footage, shot by the PAC’s researchers, of Abraham attending fundraisers in Louisiana during the shutdown.

The state Democratic Party has also gotten in on the Abraham voting record criticism.

“Rep. Abraham can’t claim to care about Louisianans affected by the shutdown when he’s skipping shutdown-ending votes to go to fundraisers,” Eric Holl, spokesman for Victory 2019, the Democratic Coordinated Campaign, said. “(H)e’s saying he wants to help Louisianans affected by the shutdown, and then abandoning his job. You just can’t trust Ralph Abraham to do what he says he’ll do.”

And Edwards, himself, has had pointed words for Abraham over the issue.

“It’s interesting that the congressman is in Louisiana, running around raising money and missing votes in Washington to reopen the government,” Edwards said during a recent meeting with The Advocate editorial board.

Cole Avery, a spokesman for Abraham, defended the congressman’s voting record and noted that noted his previous attendance record was the highest among the Louisiana delegation.

“Louisiana desperately needs a change in leadership. A side effect is Ralph will occasionally have to miss votes,” Avery said. “Beating John Bel is that important.”

“Louisiana can’t afford another four years of John Bel Edwards,” he added.

Abraham voted for a bill that passed the House before the shutdown that would have funded government and Trump’s border wall request, Avery said, and he argued that the shutdown votes Abraham missed wouldn’t have seen a different outcome had he been there to vote.

“They weren’t going anywhere. They were dead in the water. Everyone knew this,” he said. “They were gimmicks, they were political stunts.”

Abraham had acknowledged before last year’s election that he was considering a run for governor. Avery said that the congressman heard from constituents during that campaign that they would support him seeking the governor’s office.

“People knew what he was thinking about doing,” Avery said. “It’s not uncommon to hold one office and run for another.”


Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.