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Gov. John Bel Edwards, right, shakes hands with businessman Eddie Rispone, center, as U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, left, and the other two attend an Oil and Natural Gas Industry Day event in May.

Each of the three candidates for governor is making a last-minute push this week to show a large amount of cash on hand when the next campaign finance reports are filed.

Businessman Eddie Rispone held a fundraiser Tuesday night at a restaurateur’s home in Baton Rouge, while Gov. John Bel Edwards held one in New Orleans with young professionals.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham is holding a fundraiser Wednesday night at the Metairie home of businessman Joe Canizaro, a longtime GOP fund-raising heavyweight.

Karl Rove, who was President George W. Bush's top political consultant, is the invited guest.

This week’s events are important because political insiders judge a candidate’s strength in part on the amount of money he or she has available. The chatter can help or hurt a candidate’s ability to raise more money – and the money, of course, is what pays for ads on television or online, yard signs, campaign field workers and polling.

The next round of campaign finance reports cover July 5 through Monday, Sept. 2. The campaigns will have to make the reports public by Sept. 12, which is 30 days before the Oct. 12 primary.

As of July 5, Edwards and Rispone had nearly $10 million apiece on hand, though Rispone had loaned most of the money to his campaign. Abraham, meanwhile, had less than $2 million. The money advantage has allowed Edwards and Rispone to advertise more heavily than Abraham.

Polls have shown Edwards leading with anywhere from 45% to 52% of the vote, trailed by Abraham, with Rispone reportedly gaining on Abraham because of his recent advertising blitz.

Edwards, a Democrat, is widely expected to finish first in the primary. If he can top 50%, he will win the election outright. Otherwise, he will have to square off against whichever Republican finishes second in a Nov. 16 runoff.

The hosts for Abraham’s event are Canizaro and former shipbuilder Boysie Bollinger, two of the biggest Republican fundraisers in Louisiana over the past 25 years. Their support has added credibility to the campaign of Abraham, who represents mostly rural northeast Louisiana in Congress.

“I think he’s the man who will be in the runoff and the man who will win the runoff,” Bollinger said. “He’s a doctor. He’s a congressman. Those things bode well for his electability.”

Abraham’s event is competing against two other big-name Republican fundraisers that night. Ray Brandt, a prominent car dealer, is hosting one in Metairie for Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto, who is running for re-election, while Ochsner president and chief executive officer Warner Thomas is hosting a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy in New Orleans. Cassidy is up for re-election in 2020.

Abraham’s fundraiser takes place 10 days after he received the endorsement from the Jefferson Parish Republican Executive Committee after both he and Rispone made pitches to the party insiders.

It’s considered a key endorsement. With 82,600 GOP voters, Jefferson Parish has more registered Republicans than any other parish in Louisiana. Edwards, however, narrowly carried it in the 2015 governor’s race over then-U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican who lives in Metairie.

One prominent Jefferson Parish Republican donor, Shane Guidry, said he is sitting out the governor’s race this time. Four years ago, his company, Harvey Gulf, donated $150,000 to Gumbo PAC, which supported Edwards over Vitter.

“I don’t think he can be beaten,” Guidry said of the governor.

Edwards’ event was with so-called young professionals. The Honorary Host Committee was a who’s who list of New Orleans elected officials, including Mayor LaToya Cantrell and state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who is also the Louisiana Democratic Party chair. Peterson sharply criticized Edwards earlier this year for signing a strict anti-abortion bill.

One of those on the “Steering Committee” – who either raised or donated money in advance for the event – was Zach Butterworth, a former aide to then-Mayor Mitch Landrieu who is now a special counsel to the Adams & Reese law firm.

Edwards “has been a leader on coastal restoration and health care,” Butterworth said. “Thanks to him, 400,000-plus people now have access to health care.”

Edwards began airing a campaign commercial on Tuesday in which people described how they benefited from Edwards’ decision to expand Medicaid to the working poor. “I can see,” said one man, who was identified as suffering from glaucoma.

Hosting Tuesday night’s event for Rispone was Wayne Stabiler, who owns the Little Village and Stab’s Prime restaurants in Baton Rouge.

“We need something fresh,” Stabiler said when asked why he is assisting Rispone’s campaign. “I trust Eddie and believe in him.”

Email Tyler Bridges at