The Most Expensive Ever?

Published: Jan. 31, 2019

By: Sheridan Wall and Lauren Heffker, LSU Manship School News Service

A growing number of Louisiana politicos, from pundits to donors, believe that the 2019 race for governor will be one of the most expensive ever waged on Louisiana soil.

But how much will all that money matter?

It matters a lot, said consultant Roy Fletcher. It’s not just the total dollar amount that will be important, but how the cash ebbs and flows in the campaigns, he added.

Analysts say money is most critical for increasing name recognition, and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has an advantage there. For Congressman Ralph Abraham and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, the first priority is establishing their GOP image to voters.

Edwards’ campaign announced it has raised a total of $8.4 million so far, while Rispone pledged to use $5 million of his personal cash and has raised an additional $554,000. Abraham has not yet reported donations or spending for this race.

The fundraising game will be crucial early on as challengers need to simultaneously build name recognition and define their messages to voters before Edwards has the opportunity to do it for them, Fletcher said. “So, the fight isn’t just over name recognition,” he said, “but it’s over definition.”

But the election also could be determined by party affiliation in a red state, as Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, takes on challengers who will automatically win support from some GOP voters. And given Louisiana’s off-kilter election schedule as one of only three states with governor’s races this year, most experts expect money to pour into the state from outside groups in both parties.

Printed in LaPolitics.

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