Eddie Rispone, the Republican businessman who lost a bid to unseat Louisiana’s Democratic governor in 2019, is suspending his campaign for chairman of the party, weeks after saying he wanted to take over after seeing the party outworked and outspent during the governor’s race.
Rispone said in an interview he has “major obligations” in his personal and business life that would prevent him from devoting enough time to party chair.
After losing the governor’s race by roughly 40,000 votes last year, long-time GOP donor and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone quickly star…
“I’m going to stay a committee member and push to make our party transparent and accountable and more inclusive,” Rispone said. “I just don’t feel right taking this on and not being able to give it the time it deserves.”
Rispone, after losing his bid for governor by about 40,000 votes, turned his sights to the Republican State Central Committee, which oversees the sprawling infrastructure of the state’s Republican party. He recruited candidates, especially in districts where the committee member had missed several quarterly meetings.
In late December, he announced he was running to unseat Louis Gurvich, the current chair of the party. In an email to his supporters on the state central committee, he said he supported 18 candidates for the central committee and lost only one of the races. He asked the members for support in his bid for chair, while also saying he “will not be running for governor of Louisiana in 2023,” and that he is not in favor of raising the gasoline tax, dispelling what he called “false rumors” about him.
Rispone in an interview said many major donors like him stopped funding the state party because “they weren’t effective.”
Gurvich then sent his own email to all committee members, calling Rispone’s effort a “scorched earth campaign,” and insisting “he can’t unite Republicans. He isn’t capable of it.”
In the emails, Rispone and Gurvich also traded barbs about whether Gurvich was violating state law by not calling the first meeting of the state central committee within 40 days of the election on Dec. 5. Gurvich has since called the meeting for Jan. 30, at Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. Gurvich did not return a phone call Thursday.
Among Rispone’s opponents in the race for chair was Roger Villere, who for years led the state GOP before stepping down a few years ago. Villere is now the Republican National Committeeman for the state, and said in a recent interview he thought Rispone was a “poor candidate” for governor who couldn’t unite Republicans. Villere has rankled some Republican activists and elected officials with his private consulting work, which critics – including some Rispone supporters – say represents a broader issue of consultants leveraging their positions within the party to land work. Villere and his allies deny his consulting work is improper.
Mike Bayham, the secretary of the party, said Rispone “got a taste of unfortunately how fratricidal this party is.” Bayham has previously said the party needs a “culture” change, pointing to an attack mailer against him in his race for re-election to the Republican State Central Committee, whose origins weren’t disclosed.
“The guy is a serious businessman,” Bayham said. “I think he didn’t fully appreciate how much herding of cats there would be involved. When you’re chairman of the party you answer theoretically to over 220 (central committee) members.”