The three major candidates for governor have a combined roughly $13.4 million to spend as the race enters its final month before the Oct. 12 primary, with businessman Eddie Rispone loaning his campaign another $1.5 million to give himself the largest war chest.
Rispone, co-founder of an industrial construction firm, has now given his campaign more than $11.5 million in personal money in his bid to unseat Gov. John Bel Edwards. With a month to go until the primary, where all candidates will appear on the same ballot, Rispone has $6.3 million to spend.
Edwards, meanwhile, had nearly just as much, with $5.7 million in his account. A rare Deep South Democratic governor, Edwards spent $5.5 million in the past roughly two months, according to the fundraising reports that were due at midnight, much of it on television advertising. The governor hauled in more in contributions than any candidate, at $1.5 million, with his campaign touting that as the most any candidate has raised during the July-September fundraising period in Louisiana.
Rispone, whose money is primarily coming from his personal bank account, has been blitzing the airwaves in an effort to drown out his main Republican challenger, Ralph Abraham, and advance to a Nov. 16 runoff election against Edwards. Rispone spent $5.2 million during the period, dwarfing the $634,000 spent by Abraham.
Abraham, a north Louisiana Congressman, has far less to spend than the other two candidates, but has hung on to his lead over Rispone, a recent independent poll suggested. Abraham brought in $743,000 in contributions during the period, giving him $1.4 million on hand for the rest of the race.
Abraham's campaign has sought to tamp down talk of a surge by Rispone, who has advertised heavily and appears poised to continue to do so. On Friday, the Abraham campaign boasted raising five times as much as Rispone from donors.
The three candidates will all appear onstage for the first of three televised debates next Thursday at LSU. If no candidate wins more than 50% in the Oct. 12 primary election, the top two vote-getters advance to a Nov. 16 runoff, at which point they can spend what money they have left over and raise more money from donors who have maxed out their contributions.
Outside super PACs, which often spend their money attacking candidates with negative ads, also continued pouring cash into the race. Gumbo PAC, which is dedicated to reelecting Edwards, raised another $1 million, with half of that coming from the national group Democratic Governors Association. Gumbo has $2 million on hand, but as a Super PAC can raise and spend unlimited sums as long as it does not coordinate directly with a campaign. The organization is run by political operative Trey Ourso.
Likewise, the Republican Governors Association, a D.C. group dedicated to flipping Louisiana’s governorship from blue to red, dropped another $2 million into its Louisiana organization, called Right Direction PAC. It spent about $1.7 million during the period.
The super PAC affiliated with Abraham, called Securing Louisiana Future, raised only $31,735 and spent under $200,000, giving it $19,400 on hand for the rest of the way. Its political operations are run primarily by Brett Buerck of Majority Strategies in Florida.
Louisiana’s jungle primary system pits all candidates against each other in an Oct. 12 primary, and if no candidate wins more than 50%, the top two will advance to a runoff election in November.