After months of quiet, Louisiana’s gubernatorial campaign lurched into action Tuesday with two candidates making addresses, media campaigns gearing up and the candidates releasing their fundraising figures early.
The war chests are substantial. And with a little more than 13 weeks left before the Oct. 12 primary balloting the heretofore quiet campaign likely will swamp Louisiana airwaves.
The three major candidates are reporting enough money to buy a substantive schedule of television and radio commercials. This will go along with digital ads, social media posts and mailed fliers.
Incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat from Amite, reports sitting on $9.62 million – more than Republican incumbent Bobby Jindal had at this point. He began television advertising Monday.
Gov. John Bel Edwards' campaign on Monday released its first statewide television ad of the 2019 election cycle, highlighting the state's newf…
Republican challenger Eddie Rispone, a Baton Rouge businessman, reports having a little more: $9.8. million cash on hand. Rispone, who co-founded an industrial construction firm and who was a major GOP donor over the years, loaned his campaign more than $10 million from his personal bank account, giving him an edge over Edwards in funding. Edwards was legally forbidden from raising campaign dollars during the three months the Louisiana Legislature was in session.
Responding to the sharp barbs by Baton Rouge Republicans wondering when he would start using that money and building his name recognition outside the Baton Rouge area, Rispone said Tuesday “everyone will know who I am” by the end of qualifying. The period during which candidates officially sign up to get their name on the fall ballot is Aug 6-8.
Rispone refused to say precisely when those commercials would be aired – he said only people in the political bubble cared right now. But he said once the ads begin he plans to continue a heavy dose advertising through the primary.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, the Alto Republican who also is challenging Edwards’ reelection, was in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, according to his campaign.
Abraham has trailed the other two candidates, reporting just over $1 million as of the end of the first quarter. But Abraham recently recruited two of Louisiana’s biggest fundraisers for conservative causes and candidates: retired shipbuilder Donald “Boysie” Bollinger and developer Joseph Canizaro. The most recent reports, which are due to be publicly released Monday, won't show the impact of Abraham's new fundraising team.
Edwards's event Tuesday brought him before a few dozen supporters at a hot and intimate midday rally at the French Press restaurant, where he held a fundraiser earlier in the day.
The event is part of a R.V. tour that is taking the governor to Lake Charles Tuesday afternoon. He cancelled plans to cross the state over the next few days and instead returned to Baton Rouge Tuesday night to prepare emergency personnel for the severe weather threat expected later this week.
The slow-starting governor’s race finally kicked into high gear Monday, slightly more than three months before the Oct. 12 open primary.
"We have a lot of momentum in Louisiana," Edwards said. "There are still challenges. We know that. But at least we can attack them from a position of strength."
Volunteers from Abraham's campaign stood outside the Edwards event with large signs that displayed negative news headlines about Louisiana.
Voters will likely see much more of those two competing messages as millions of dollars are spent on TV advertising. Edwards is seeking reelection as the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, and some Republican groups are trying to prevent that from happening by tagging him as a tax-and-spend liberal who has not shown results. Edwards has pointed out the sales tax hike that anchored a budget deal last year was agreed to by the GOP-led Legislature, and that the state's current surplus enabled investments in teacher pay raises, education and other priorities.
Edwards took to the stump Tuesday in Lafayette to lay out a stark choice for voters in the governor's race this year, as battle lines in the race are drawn and Edwards' opponents step up their attacks on the incumbent Democrat.
At a rally Tuesday in Lafayette and in a statewide TV commercial, Edwards cast himself as an antidote to the budget crises Louisiana experienced at the tail end of former Gov. Jindal's administration, and said his Republican opponents want to take the state back to those days.
The benefits of being an incumbent governor were also evident at the rally Tuesday. Annette Fontenot, a school secretary and Edwards supporter in Lafayette, said she was excited about the pay raise she's set to receive as part of Edwards' legislative agenda.
The Republican Governors Association swiftly hit back, going on TV Tuesday with an ad attacking Edwards' record on taxes and the economy, arguing Louisiana is being left behind as the national economy grows.
A day after Gov. John Bel Edwards' campaign released the first statewide TV ad of the governor's race, the Republican Governors Association la…
And Rispone piled on, telling a luncheon of the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish that Louisiana ranked last in many polls precisely because Edwards opted to raise taxes and hired cronies to run state agencies rather than focus on business-friendly principles that would increase the number of jobs available. Rispone said he is like President Donald Trump, an outsider who has run a successful business and could apply those skills to running Louisiana.
“I’m not a politician. I am going to support Trump, not only when its politically correct, not only when it’s popular, but all the time,” Rispone said.
Trump won election in 2016 with overwhelming support from Louisiana voters.