He hasn’t officially made a campaign announcement yet, but we reported a few weeks back that Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser is running for Lieutenant Governor against incumbent Jay Dardenne, setting up the most prominent of what looks like a few Republican-vs.-Republican races at the statewide level this fall.
Now we’ve got some rather compelling evidence that Billy is in. Namely, a campaign finance disclosure filed today which shows a bulging war chest for Nungesser in advance of his run against Dardenne. Specifically, Nungesser says he’s got $875,000 in the bank, $500,000 of which he’s kicking in out of his own pocket and $375,000 in donations he’s pulled in.
That puts Nungesser at a huge cash advantage over Dardenne, whose own report shows that he’s sitting on about $192,000. Of course, Dardenne is the incumbent and he has the advantages inherent in that status. And there is a federal investigation into some contracts let by the Plaquemines Parish government in 2007 in which it’s alleged that Nungesser bypassed local ordinances requiring the approval of the parish council in order to get them signed. It appears there’s a legitimate question whether all this is an ethical lapse or an example of Billy cutting through red tape to get things done; certainly it will be an issue debated during the election.
Either way, Dardenne has a fight on his hands and financially he looks like he’s going to be outgunned – just like he was last year running against Caroline Fayard in the special election for the job he currently holds. But Dardenne carried 57 percent of the vote against Fayard in November 2010. The question is, can he demonstrate that strength against a well-heeled and well-known challenger who will come at him assumedly from the right.