Louisiana Governor Has $8.4M in Bank for Re-Election Effort
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks to the Press Club of Baton Rouge about his plans for 2019, on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La. The Democrat, who is running for re-election this fall, says he'll prioritize teacher pay raises in the legislative session and again seek to increase Louisiana's minimum wage.
AP photo by Melinda Deslatte
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, seeking to hold onto his seat as the Deep South's lone Democratic governor, is kicking off his re-election bid with nearly $8.4 million in the bank, his campaign announced Tuesday.
The governor will report raising nearly $3.8 million over the last year when he files his campaign fundraising report with Louisiana's ethics administration office, the Edwards campaign told The Associated Press.
"It is one of the greatest honors of my life to serve as governor of Louisiana, and I am humbled by the support my family and I have received from the people of our great state," Edwards said in a statement. "We have come so far over the last three years, and our state is headed in the right direction."
Edwards' fundraising grew from the prior year, when he raised about $2 million in 2017. But his cash on hand lags that of his predecessor, Republican Bobby Jindal, who had $9.2 million in the bank at the same period when he was running for a second term in 2011.
Two Republicans so far have announced they intend to challenge Edwards on the October ballot: U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, a third-term congressman from rural northeast Louisiana, and wealthy Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, a longtime Republican political donor and first-time office-seeker.
Edwards' formidable fundraising haul is expected to place him ahead of both competitors, who only launched their campaigns and started seeking donations in the final few months of the year. Rispone announced his intentions in October, while Abraham waited until last month.
Rispone's campaign responded to Edwards' figures by releasing its own, saying the businessman will report $5.5 million in his campaign account. Nearly all of it, $5 million, comes from Rispone himself to jumpstart his effort to unseat Edwards. He raised another $554,000 in 2018 after announcing his gubernatorial bid, according to information provided by campaign spokesman Anthony Ramirez.
"In a race that will cost over 10 million, we believe that Eddie Rispone, the only conservative outsider running, is well positioned to beat John Bel Edwards," Ramirez said in a statement.
Abraham will have to rely more heavily on donors. He hasn't released finance figures yet.
Also, millions of dollars in outside PAC and special interest money are expected to flood the Louisiana governor's race this year, from Democrats who want Edwards to hang onto the seat and Republicans who think Edwards' previous victory was a fluke in a red state where every other statewide elected official is in the GOP.
That unknown quantity of outsider cash could heavily influence a candidate's chances.
Campaign finance reports outlining donations and expenses for 2018 are due to the ethics administration office by Feb. 15.
Edwards' campaign said its report, which hasn't been filed yet, will show more than 87 percent of the money raised last year came from Louisiana donors and more than half of the people who contributed gave small-dollar donations of less than $250.
By AP reporter Melinda Deslatte