Louisiana Governor

In this March 18, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham speaks at a business event hosted by the Republican Governors Association in Baton Rouge. While Louisiana Republicans have cautioned that infighting among GOP candidates could sink efforts to retake the governor's mansion, a political action committee backing U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham isn't following requests to avoid intraparty attacks. The Securing Louisiana's Future PAC, which is supporting Abraham in the Oct. 12 election, released a Facebook ad panning fellow Republican contender Eddie Rispone, a wealthy Baton Rouge businessman.

Congressman Ralph Abraham has launched his first TV ad in the race for governor, making him the last of the three major candidates to do so. 

The introductory ad, titled "Frontrunner," shows Abraham standing in front of an American flag as the camera pans upward and narrators repeat his name as the "Republican frontrunner" and "President Trump's go-to ally in Louisiana." 

Abraham has led Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, the other major Republican in the race, in polling so far. But Rispone has a sizable funding advantage after loaning his campaign more than $10 million. Rispone and Gov. John Bel Edwards have been advertising on TV for weeks. 

Lionel Rainey, political strategist for Abraham, said the campaign will be on TV continuously through election day. 

While Rispone launched a TV ad blitz last month, Rainey said the campaign has always planned to launch its first ad in mid-August, and has been monitoring the race weekly. 

"There have been no indicators for us to change our current plan," Rainey said, suggesting polls haven't moved significantly since Rispone began advertising. 

Super PACs are pouring millions of dollars into Louisiana governor's race to unseat Gov. Edwards

Rispone's ads have heavily emphasized his adoration for President Donald Trump, and both Republicans have tried to cast themselves as more aligned with the president, who is relatively popular in Louisiana. Rispone has largely shied away from governor's forums and other public events, opting instead for a heavily anti-immigration message, including his pledge to help Trump "build the wall." 

Abraham had $1.3 million in the bank at the last reporting period, far short of Rispone's $9.8 million. Rainey pointed to a campaign finance team headed up by well-heeled GOP donors Boysie Bollinger and Joe Canizaro, and said the campaign's fundraising will continue to improve as election day approaches. Bollinger is also funneling money into a Super PAC aligned with Abraham called Securing Louisiana's Future. 

The primary election, where all candidates will appear on the same ballot, is Oct. 12. If no candidate wins more than 50%, the top two will advance to a Nov. 16 runoff election. 

Last week, qualifying ended in the race with nine candidates but no major surprises, as Edwards, a Democrat, faces Abraham and Rispone as his two significant Republican challengers. 

The candidates have collectively raised more than $22 million in the race, most of which will be spent in the coming weeks as they blitz the TV airwaves. A host of Super PACs and other outside organizations looking to influence the race--including several based in Washington, D.C.--are also sitting on millions and are expected to spend heavily. Gumbo PAC, the Super PAC affiliated with Edwards, has placed its first TV buy for advertising that will launch Tuesday, according to Medium Buying, a company that tracks political ads. 

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com