By MELINDA DESLATTE Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards entered a three-month fundraising blackout for his reelection bid in a strong cash position, with the Democrat’s campaign saying Tuesday that he ended the latest donor solicitation period with $10.2 million in the bank.
One of his Republican challengers, businessman Eddie Rispone, responded to the announcement by saying he’ll report a $10.4 million campaign balance, though most of that was loaned from his own personal bank account.
Edwards, the Deep South’s lone Democratic governor, will report raising more than $2.5 million in the fundraising quarter that ended April 5 when he files his report to the state ethics administration office, his campaign told The Associated Press.
His GOP opponents, Rispone and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, haven’t yet released comparable updated campaign finance figures. The latest reports for the Oct. 12 election are due next week.
Edwards’ $10.2 million cash on hand places him ahead of the $9.5 million that Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal had in the bank at this point of his 2011 reelection bid. And the figure is larger than the $8.2 million that all four gubernatorial candidates had combined at this point of the 2015 governor’s race Edwards eventually won.
“It means so much to Donna and I that so many people support this campaign. It is truly an honor to serve as governor,” Edwards said in a statement. “With this strong support, we can continue to spread our message that we’re moving Louisiana in the right direction, investing in education and creating jobs.”
The governor has raised $12.1 million since taking office in 2016, and 83% of donors live in Louisiana, his campaign said.
Rispone’s campaign said the money it has in the bank shows “Eddie Rispone is the Republican who can beat John Bel Edwards.”
Spokesman Anthony Ramirez said Rispone, a longtime political donor and first-time office seeker, has raised $1 million from contributors since his campaign launch in October. Ramirez wouldn’t say, however, how much the GOP contender has loaned his campaign beyond the $5 million he previously reported. Rispone gave himself another “sizable loan,” he said.
“He’s going to spend it,” Ramirez said. “He’s going to put in whatever it takes to win.”
Edwards packed in fundraisers in advance of the blackout for soliciting donations. He played up the ban in fundraising emails.
He is limited by a 2004 law prohibiting the governor and state lawmakers from seeking campaign contributions during the regular legislative session, which started Monday and runs for two months. The governor’s fundraising ban also extends 30 days beyond the session’s end, when he decides whether to sign or veto bills.
As they’re not state-level lawmakers, Abraham and Rispone aren’t similarly restricted and can continue seeking donations this quarter while Edwards’ fundraising operation is idle. But even as Edwards stalls his fundraising operation for a quarter, outside groups supporting his campaign can keep hauling in money.
Abraham and Rispone announced their campaigns in the final quarter of last year, so they’ve been playing catch-up on fundraising.
Abraham, a doctor from rural northeast Louisiana who entered the race in December, had $350,000 in his campaign account by last year’s close, but has said he’ll report reaching the $1 million mark in donations in his next filing.
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.