By MELINDA DESLATTE Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Republican candidate for Louisiana governor Ralph Abraham bested his GOP competitor Eddie Rispone in campaign donations for the latest fundraising quarter, but Rispone’s personal wealth more than covered the gap.
The two men, running against Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards, are in a contest to show which one is the more viable opponent to Edwards. While all three candidates on the Oct. 12 ballot together, the Republicans are trying to build campaigns from the same base of support, largely seeking similar donors and voters.
The latest fundraising reports filed late Monday with the state ethics administration office show Abraham , a congressman from rural northeast Louisiana, raised $799,000 from January through April 5, compared to $597,000 for Rispone , a Baton Rouge businessman.
But Rispone, a longtime donor to conservative causes and first-time candidate, has loaned his campaign $10 million since announcing his candidacy in October.
So, while Abraham reported $1 million in the bank, Rispone is sitting on $10.5 million.
Not unexpectedly, the two campaigns diverged Tuesday on what the filings mean.
“Today’s finance reports reaffirm that Eddie Rispone is the Republican who can beat John Bel Edwards this fall,” Rispone spokesman Anthony Ramirez said in a texted statement.
Abraham’s campaign noted that while each Republican raised about $1.1 million from donors so far, Abraham drew in the cash in a shorter period of time. He entered the competition in December.
“We are genuinely excited about where we are. We’re ahead of pace. We’ve got a ton of momentum across all the state. And we outraised our Republican competitor,” said Abraham’s political consultant Lionel Rainey.
Rainey also pointed to spending levels, with Abraham spending $140,000 in the quarter, compared to $573,000 for Rispone.
“We’re using our money more wisely and more efficiently,” Rainey said. “We know without question that we will have enough money to be able to run this race.”
Edwards, who publicly announced detailed fundraising figures last week, has built up a hefty campaign account across his three years in office.
He reported raising $2.6 million in the latest quarter and has $10.2 million in the bank. The Deep South’s lone Democratic governor has raised $12 million since taking office in 2016 and has more money on hand than all four gubernatorial candidates had combined at this point of the 2015 governor’s race Edwards eventually won.
While Abraham and Rispone continue to seek campaign cash, Edwards is in a three-month blackout period for soliciting donations.
Edwards is limited by a 2004 law prohibiting the governor and state lawmakers from seeking campaign contributions during the regular legislative session and bans the governor for 30 days beyond session’s end, when he decides whether to sign or veto bills.
But outside PACs can keep raising money to support Edwards. The pro-Edwards Gumbo PAC reported more than $2 million in the bank.
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