State Capitol file

Advocate staff photo of the Louisiana State Capitol

The main candidates that have entered the race for Louisiana governor are quickly staffing up with less than nine months to go until Election Day.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is seeking his second term in office, but the race is expected to heat up as Republicans eye an opportunity to unseat the only Democratic governor in the Deep South.

Two Republican challengers have already entered the race – U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham of Alto and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone – and have begun making key hires to their teams.

The election is Oct. 12. A Nov. 16 runoff will take place between the top two vote-getters if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary.

Abraham announced Wednesday morning that he has hired John Vick, a Marine veteran and Navy Reserve officer, to run his campaign. Vick recently worked on U.S. Sen. John Kennedy’s successful runoff election team in 2016.

Courtney Alexander, who worked on U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy’s successful campaign in 2015 who has worked in Abraham’s Washington office, will serve as Abraham’s political director.

Allee Bautsch Gruenwald, who is best known for working fundraising for former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s successful campaigns, has been tapped to lead Abraham’s finances.

And GOP political consultant Lionel Rainey, who has done extensive work for the Louisiana House Republicans in the past year and is fresh off of three successful statewide races – Kennedy in 2016, State Treasurer John Schroder in 2017 and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin in 2018 — will serve as a general consultant to Abraham’s team.

“I'm thrilled about the team we've put together," Abraham said in a news release. "This is already a tight-knit group that's dedicated to making Louisiana the state we know it can be, and we are all excited about what the next year holds."

Rispone’s team is being led by Bryan Reed, a veteran GOP political strategist who has worked on campaigns across the country, including ex-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, Edwards’ former deputy chief of staff Richard Carbo recently left the administration to move over to the governor’s re-election campaign team.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.