Breaking News
More () »

Louisiana's governor candidates ringing bells — for campaign donations

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican challengers U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and wealthy Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone all scheduled high-profile, high-powered holiday fundraisers.

During this season of giving, candidates for the 2019 Louisiana governor's race are hoping their donors are feeling generous.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican challengers U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and wealthy Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone all scheduled high-profile, high-powered holiday fundraisers.

And that doesn't include the dozens or more calls each must make every day asking for campaign cash.

Every penny is important, but they'll need chunks to compete in this race.

"Symbolically, you'll see every candidate standing on corners around the state ringing bells in front of red pots hoping for a Christmas miracle," said Louisiana's ultimate political insider Jeremy Alford, publisher of LaPolitics.com.

Alford said he believes any competitive candidate must aspire to raise $10 million or more, which he said is conservative considering the two runoff candidates in the 2015 race — Edwards and former GOP U.S. Sen. David Vitter — spent $11 million each.

"That only scratches the surface," Alford said. "Once you consider money spent by political parties and super (political action committees) I think you'll see $50 million spent on this race."

RELATED: Sen. Kennedy talks shutdown, Syria, justice reform, governor's race

Edwards leads the pack so far. Those within his campaign expect the governor to post $8 million when the next campaign finance reports are due in February, something the governor himself has alluded to at events, with months more to go.

And that doesn't include the anticipated $2 million Gumbo PAC will have raised separately to support the governor by then.

Craig Spohn, executive director at the Cyber Innovation Center in Shreveport-Bossier City, recently hosted a profitable fundraiser for Edwards, who continues to build on his war chest.

Rispone has pledged to invest $5 million of his own money, but that doesn't mean he's not asking for others to chip in.

Last week Rispone supporters, led by Louisiana industrialist Lane Grigsby, who wields great political influence among Republicans, played host to a fund-raiser for their candidate at the Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge.

Wealthy hotel developer James Moore Jr., a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, has scheduled a fundraiser at his Monroe home for Abraham next week.

Abraham had a reputation as a reluctant fundraiser before declaring for the race this month, but his campaign staff said the congressman made 100 calls to potential donors on the first day he announced.

"We fully expect to have the resources we need to compete and win this race," said Abraham's spokesman Cole Avery. "The future of Louisiana depends on it."

Eric Holl, whose leading the state Democratic Party's effort to re-elect Edwards, said Abraham should focus on his current job. 

“Rep. Abraham said himself that he can’t do his job while running for governor and it’s clear he was being honest," Holl said. "Rather than dialing donors and taking five-day vacations, Rep. Abraham should focus on the job he actually has and find a real long-term solution to avoid a government shutdown.”

Avery pointed out that Abraham hasn't missed a single vote during the lame-duck session of Congress.

“Democrats have rejected every spending compromise Republicans have offered because they want to block President (Donald) Trump’s wall," Avery said. "Maybe Gov. Edwards should put in a call to his party leaders and tell them to give us (border) wall money, but we all know he’ll stand with (Nancy) Pelosi and (Chuck) Schumer when it counts the most.”

Most of the candidates give snappy team titles to their biggest donors.

Those who support Edwards with a maximum $5,000 donation get to join the "Governor's Circle."

For Rispone, donors who invest $1,000 are on "Eddie's First Team," but those who chip in $2,500 get to be on "Eddie's All-District Team" and those who max out at $5,000 are "Eddie's All-Stars."

Those who max out for the congressman are "Abraham's Aces."

"In the end, the money spent in this race will shatter the record set just three years ago in the 2015 governor's race." 

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1 

Before You Leave, Check This Out