With the field of Republican gubernatorial candidates narrowing to two unexpected frontrunners—U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone—GOP campaign strategists are beginning to decide who to represent as the 2019 race draws near.
Baton Rouge strategist Lionel Rainey, who is in the unique position of having previously worked for both candidates, is putting his weight behind Abraham.
But Rainey does maintain close ties with Rispone. The ISC Constructors founder is a first-time candidate and longtime donor to GOP campaigns and causes, for which he has teamed up with Rainey in the past.
Earlier this year, however, Rainey served as general consultant for Abraham’s re-election campaign and vowed to stay on his team if he jumped in the governor’s race.
“When I came on board his re-election campaign, I gave him my word that if he ran for governor I’d be with him,” Rainey says.
Other major state GOP strategists remain undecided or have not yet disclosed who they might work for come 2019.
Jason Hebert, co-founder of The Political Firm in Baton Rouge, says his team would like to get involved in the governor’s race but hasn’t decided yet. Hebert’s firm has worked with several high-profile Louisiana politicians, such as Attorney General Jeff Landry and U.S. Reps. Garret Graves, Steve Scalise and Mike Johnson.
It’s also unclear whether Kyle Ruckert—campaign manager for former U.S. Sen. and 2015 gubernatorial candidate David Vitter—will be involved in the 2019 race.
Ruckert, however, does have connections to Cajun Industries founder and GOP donor Lane Grigsby, who is supporting his friend and fellow businessman, Rispone.
Two other well-known GOP strategists, Gordon Reese and Jay Connaughton, have also worked with Grigsby, but it’s also unclear who they might get behind in 2019.
Calls for comment to Ruckert and Reese were not returned by deadline.