3 Governor Candidates

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

The state GOP backs both gubernatorial candidates while much of the party’s establishment and about a dozen executive committees have fallen behind the candidacy of U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, of Alto.

But the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish is throwing its support behind Eddie Rispone, the millionaire Baton Rouge businessman in the Oct. 12 primary. Rispone and Abraham are challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Baton Rouge Republicans also backed insurgent Tim Temple in his race against incumbent Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon. The party also chose Rep. Franklin Foil over Rep. Steve Carter, both Republicans seeking to represent southeast Baton Rouge in the state Senate.

Early voting is from Sept. 28 through Oct. 5 and primary election day is Oct. 12. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, then the top two vote-getters will meet in a Nov. 16 runoff. The Republican candidates are positioning themselves to be in that runoff with Edwards.

“In the governor’s race, we feel Eddie Rispone is best positioned to defeat the incumbent governor,” said Woody Jenkins, the parish party chairman. He says Abraham has been too hurt by what he claims has been negative attacks by the Edwards campaign.

Rispone, who is making his first bid for public office and is largely unknown outside of Baton Rouge, has been spared. Abraham hasn’t raised enough money to keep up with Rispone, who is self-funding his campaign.

“In the runoff, we fear his (Abraham) limited resources will have to be spent in defending himself instead of selling his positive message,” Jenkins said. “When Sunday, Oct. 13 arrives, Eddie Rispone will have the resources to immediately sell his positive plan for Louisiana and contrast it will the Edwards administration record.”

Recent polls show that Rispone, who is making his first bid for public office, is increasing in support. For the most part Rispone has eschewed the traditional campaign activities, like skipping forums sponsored by sheriffs and local elected officials, focusing mostly on party events and a considerable schedule of television advertising.

While not well known statewide, Rispone’s involvement in civic and GOP causes gave him a high profile in Baton Rouge.

East Baton Rouge Parish has the third most registered Republicans with 78,915 on the rolls in the state behind Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes. But Jenkins points out that more EBR Republicans actually go the polls than elsewhere in Louisiana.

Jenkins said Rispone’s personal story is compelling.

A foundling abandoned as a baby in a basket, the Rispone name is derivation of the Italian word for “responds” or “he’s alive” that the midwife attached to Joe, Rispone’s grandfather, Jenkins said. The name is otherwise unknown in Italy.

Joe Rispone arrived at Ellis Island from Sicily on Sept. 12, 1912 and eventually moved to Amite. One of his sons, Sam, moved to Baton Rouge to work in the plants and eventually scored a job at the ExxonMobil plant that then was called the Humble Oil Refinery. He built a house on Hollywood Street in north Baton Rouge.

Rispone and his brother started ISC Contractors in 1989, a specialty contracting firm.

The Baton Rouge party also made the following endorsements:

  •  Lt. Governor - Billy Nungesser
  •  Secretary of State - Kyle Ardoin
  •  Attorney General - Jeff Landry
  •  State Treasurer - John Schroder
  •  Agriculture Commissioner - Mike Strain
  •  Insurance Commissioner - Tim Temple
  •  Sheriff - Sid Gautreaux
  •  Assessor - Brian Wilson
  •  Clerk of Court - Doug Welborn
  •  Coroner - Dr. Beau Clark
  •  District Judge - Division A - Beau Brock
  •  District Judge - Division L - Trae Welch
  •  District Judge - Divison C - Beau Higginbotham
  •  Board of Elementary and Secondary Education - Greg Spiers
  •  Senate District 6 - Bodi White
  •  Senate District 16 - Franklin Foil
  •  House District 66 - Rick Edmonds
  •  House District 68 - Scott McKnight
  •  House District 69 - Paula Davis
  •  House District 70 - Michael DiResto

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.