3 Governor Candidates

John Bel Edwards (left), Eddie Rispone (middle) and Ralph Abraham (right)

Eddie Rispone has begun attacking his fellow Republican in Louisiana’s governor’s race, slamming Congressman Ralph Abraham in a new TV ad that represents the first major GOP intraparty fight in this year’s election.

Rispone, who has poured more than $11.5 million into his mostly self-funded campaign so far, has remained at third place in the polls despite vastly outspending Abraham in recent weeks, blitzing the TV airwaves.

In an ad set to launch Tuesday, Rispone’s campaign accused Abraham of lying in a campaign promise to donate his congressional salary to charity and slammed him for missing votes while running for governor. The ad also chastises Abraham for calling on President Donald Trump to consider stepping down as the Republican nominee when a recording emerged of Trump bragging about grabbing women by the genitals. The narrator calls Abraham a “typical politician” and also tries to link him to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“It’s sad that my Republican opponent felt like his only option was to create an ad full of baseless personal attacks that he knows aren’t true," Abraham said Monday. "This is the literal playbook that allowed John Bel to be elected four years ago. I’m sure his out-of-state consultants told him that he was so far behind he had to do this to win, regardless of what it could mean for our state."

Anthony Ramirez, a spokesman for Rispone’s campaign, pointed out the campaign is also launching an ad tomorrow attacking Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Democratic incumbent both Rispone and Abraham are trying to unseat. He said Rispone has been attacked by Gumbo PAC, a super PAC affiliated with Edwards, as well as Securing Louisiana’s Future, a super PAC affiliated with Abraham, and that Rispone is the last candidate to go negative on his opponents.

“Between the two ads there is an attempt to show contrast between the two career politicians in this race,” Ramirez said.

Republicans have urged the candidates not to attack each other in the primary election, where all candidates will appear on the same ballot Oct. 12. They fear a similar scenario to 2015, when former U.S. Sen. David Vitter was excoriated by his Republican rivals in the primary for a longstanding prostitution scandal, before limping into a general election where Edwards soundly defeated him.

Still, the Republicans have shown some signs of sniping at each other. In March, a mysterious blog post attacked Abraham on many of the same points made by Rispone’s TV ad, prompting the state GOP to urge the candidates to focus on Edwards. Abraham’s super PAC later threw a soft punch at Rispone for pouring millions into his own campaign.

The two ads being launched by Rispone will be on air statewide for two weeks, Ramirez said.

The three major candidates have $13.4 million to spend as the race enters its final month before the primary, after Rispone poured another $1.5 million of his own money into his campaign. Edwards has led the fundraising race by a wide margin, and had $5.7 million, slightly less than Rispone’s $6.3 million, as of last week. Abraham trailed with $1.4 million on hand.

The new ad buy will put Rispone’s campaign at $7.4 million in spending so far, Ramirez said. Medium Buying, which tracks ad spending, said on Twitter the total spending in Louisiana’s governor’s race is $21.4 million, with $9.18 million coming from pro-Edwards groups, $3.18 million coming from anti-Edwards groups and nearly $2 million coming from Abraham’s campaign.

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com