‘LaPolitics:’ Campaign finance reports offer mixed read on cycle

Here’s where Louisiana’s worth-watching politicians stand in terms of money at the beginning of this year’s four-year election cycle, based on last week’s Ethics Administration filings, our reporting and other reliable sources:

—Gov. John Bel Edwards has nearly $8.4 million in the bank, raised more than $3.8 million in 2018, spent roughly $405,000, has $6.4 million in investments and is carrying no debt. Gumbo PAC, the pro-JBE outfit led by consultant Trey Ourso, has $2.1 million in the bank, raised almost $1.5 million in 2018, spent more than $180,000, has no investments and is carrying no debt.

—The latest report from Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone shows that he has more than $5.5 million in the bank, raised nearly $560,000, loaned his campaign just over $5 million, has spent roughly $96,000, has no investments and is carrying no debt.

—Congressman Ralph Abraham raised more than $350,000 in the final weeks of 2018, spent just over $6,000 on his gubernatorial campaign and his state account has no investments and is carrying no debt. According to the FEC, Abraham has nearly $104,000 in his separate House campaign account. While legally a federal account cannot be used directly on a state race, boosters argue that recent case law should allow the congressman to transfer whatever dollars he deems appropriate to a PAC. Securing Louisiana’s Future, the pro-Abraham PAC, has yet to file any reports because they commenced activities in January. Consultant Brett Buerck, who is handling the PAC, says that their fundraising has yielded “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

—State Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Covington is gearing up … for something. Though officially “undecided” about a future office in her report, she tells LaPolitics that she is still weighing a run for governor. According to the filings, she has over $250,000 in the bank, raised $90,000 in 2018 and loaned her campaign $200,000, spent nearly $65,000, has no investments and is carrying no debt. While having over $250K is an asset in the race for Senate president, that dog won’t hunt for long in the governor’s race.

—With no opponents yet, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s reports show that he is sitting pretty. Nungesser, apparently ready to coast to a second term, has $414,000 in the bank, having raised more than $500,000 in 2018 and spent $582,000, with the lion’s share going to repay loans that Nungesser made to the campaign. With two big fundraisers already on the calendar for this year, Nungesser appears to have a hefty financial advantage. If a candidate were to run at this point, they would likely have to self-finance to match the lieutenant governor’s fundraising prowess.

—Candidates for insurance commissioner are putting their money where their mouths are. Facing his first formidable challenge since his initial election in 2006, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has over $500,000 on hand heading into 2019. However, expect that number to increase as the Jefferson Parish native hits up the fundraising circuit as the campaign progresses. He raised just over $445,000 in 2018. Challenger Tim Temple, who is jump-starting his campaign with an influx of personal funds, reported having over $800,000 in his campaign kitty, having raised just under $80,000 and loaning his campaign $822,000. Temple’s expenditures ran over $60,000.

—After waging a campaign for a full term last fall, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has just over $130,000 in the bank, having raised $153,000 in 2018 and spent nearly $155,000, including $25,900 in loans that he personally made to the campaign. He has no investments and is carrying no debt.

—Attorney General Jeff Landry has nearly $1.9 million in the bank, raised just over $1 million in 2018, spent $338,000, has investments of just over $1 million and is carrying no debt.

—Treasurer John Schroder has nearly $165,000 in the bank, raised $214,000 in 2018, spent nearly $70,000, has no investments and is carrying no debt.

—Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain has nearly $700,000 in the bank, raised just under $160,000 in 2016, spent nearly $70,000, has no investments and is carrying no debt.

They Said It: “Crazy never takes a vacation up there. As bad as it looks on the outside you ought to see it from the inside.”—U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, talking about Washington, D.C. in The News-Star

Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, athttp://www.lapolitics.com LaPolitics.com. Follow him onhttps://twitter.com/LaPoliticsNow Twitter, or on https://www.facebook.com/LaPolitics?ref=hl Facebook. He can be reached at mailto:JJA@LaPolitics.com JJA@LaPolitics.com.

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