Louisianans inducted into political ‘Hall of Fame’ at Cajundome Convention Center _lowres

Donald "Boysie" Bollinger, chairman and chief executive officer of Bollinger Enterprises LLC, right, chats with Lawrence Chehardy, chairman of the Louisiana Tax Commission, before the start of the 2016 Louisiana Political Hall of Fame induction ceremony and banquet at the Cajundome Convention Center in Lafayette.

Ralph Abraham, facing two well-funded opponents in Gov. John Bel Edwards and wealthy businessman Eddie Rispone, has lined up some well-known GOP donors to help raise money in his bid for Louisiana’s governorship.

Donald "Boysie" Bollinger and Joe Canizaro, two prolific donors who have financed the campaigns of a host of Louisiana Republicans over the years, are the respective chair and co-chair of Abraham’s gubernatorial campaign finance committee.

Abraham has lagged far behind his opponents in the fundraising category. A sitting congressman representing the rural northeastern part of the state, Abraham posted about $1 million in the bank in the first quarter.

By comparison, Rispone loaned his campaign $10 million, and posted $10.5 million war chest in as of April. Edwards has amassed a campaign account of about $10.2 million, per the latest reports. The next finance reports will become public in July.

Bollinger, who retired from the Lockport shipbuilding firm that carries his family name, and Canizaro, a New Orleans banker and developer, have helped finance the campaigns of former Gov. Bobby Jindal, Attorney General Jeff Landry, former U.S. Sen. David Vitter and a host of other Republican, mostly, politicians. Earlier this year, the pair also hosted a fundraiser for President Donald Trump when he traveled to New Orleans. Among the fundraisers who donated $100,000 to Trump's campaign at the event was Rispone. 

Canizaro even held an event for Edwards, the lone Democratic governor in the Deep South, in October. At the time, he said he had not made up his mind for the 2019 race.

“We believe that Ralph Abraham is the best choice to serve as the next governor of the state of Louisiana and will work to ensure his campaign has the financial resources necessary to beat John Bel Edwards,” Bollinger said in a statement Thursday.

The rest of the committee comprises Scott Ballard, a Covington businessman; Jonathan Bruser, of MMR Group Inc. in Baton Rouge; D. Wayne Elmore of Mello Joy Coffee in Lafayette; Steve Jordan of Central Crude in Lake Charles; Jim McCrery, a lawyer and former congressman from Shreveport; James Moore, a businessman in Monroe; Tom O’Neal of Hercules Transport and Dennis Pasentine of Mandeville.

The list includes three Jindal appointees to the LSU Board of Supervisors in Ballard, McCrery and Moore.

Abraham said the new campaign finance committee "puts us on equal playing field" with Edwards. 

Voters will pick their preferred candidate for governor on Oct. 12, and if no candidate wins more than 50% of the votes, the top two vote-getters will advance to a November runoff. 

The Rispone campaign has touted its 10-to-1 cash advantage on Abraham. Lionel Rainey, a strategist for Abraham, previously said a large personal bank account is "not what wins races." 

Gary Landrieu, who has no party affiliation who is running on mass deportations and legalizing "Las Vegas-style" gambling, is also running for governor. Landrieu is a distant cousin of Democratic former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, though the two share few political similarities. 

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com