In Louisiana, The Republicans Have All The Money These Days

In the last few days the campaign finance reports from Louisiana’s officeholders and candidates have begun rolling in, and the numbers tell a story which reflects a fairly well-accepted reality in state politics.

Namely, that nobody’s putting much money behind Democrats these days. It’s all going to GOP candidates.

The most stark example of this is at the top of the ballot. Democrats don’t have a candidate of any note at present, meaning that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s $8.8 million war chest will likely go largely unspent this year.

It was originally thought that Jindal would at least have a moneyed adversary in John Georges this fall, though Georges’ previous forays into political campaigning have been disastrous. It seems the New Orleans video poker magnate has taken stock of those performances, and his most recent campaign disclosure indicates he won’t be on the ballot this time. Georges had loaned himself some $10 million for a statewide campaign of some type, but the newly-minted Democrat (he’d changed from Independent last year in advance of his mayoral run in New Orleans) has repaid that loan and now doesn’t have any campaign cash on hand.

The latest Democrat hope is state senator Rob Marionneaux, whose statements of late that he’s “considering” a run make it sound like he’ll get in the race if the state party supplies him with the funds to do something. Marionneaux has some cash to spend left over from previous races; an April filing claimed about $210,000 in his war chest. The Livonia Democrat hasn’t made a current filing, which isn’t a surprise since he hasn’t committed to the race.

The Democrat who has committed to the race, though, is Haynesville schoolteacher Tara Hollis. It seems at this point that Hollis won’t make it to qualifying, much less Election Day, at this rate though. Hollis’ most recent filing said she’s raised about $3,500 so far this year and has a grand total of $953.21 in her war chest.

This is a candidate that state Democrat chairman Buddy Leach touted at a Baton Rouge Press Club speech, and she’s got less than a thousand bucks in the bank. She does have over 1,000 Facebook friends, though.

The weak showing at the top of the ballot doesn’t get a lot better in the down-ballot races.

There is as yet no Democrat candidate for Lieutenant Governor. That race is an intraparty Republican affair, with Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser maintaining a fundraising edge over incumbent Jay Dardenne – though the gap appears to be narrowing a little.

Nungesser opened things up with a war chest of $875,000. He’s now claiming $1.063 million, which is about double what Dardenne has. But the incumbent took in an impressive $458,000 this quarter, bringing his cash on hand figure up to $524,000 from the $191,000 he had at the last filing.

Nor are there Democrat candidates running against state treasurer John Kennedy, who has a whopping $1.9 million in the bank, insurance commissioner Jim Donelon ($619,000) or agriculture commissioner Mike Strain ($431,000).

At this time, there is no Democrat running against Attorney General Buddy Caldwell ($480,000). There was word that senate president Joel Chaisson ($139,000) would make a race against him, and Chaisson’s report filed Monday indicates a “statewide” campaign. We’re told, however, that Chaisson is more likely to make a local race in St. Charles Parish instead – with district attorney the probably target.

The one race there will definitely be a Democrat running in is Secretary of State. And Caroline Fayard brings a reputation for fundraising prowess into the contest, fresh off an unsuccessful special election campaign for Lt. Governor last fall. In that race Fayard brought in over $1 million in total contributions, though three-quarters of that turned out to be “in-kind” contributions from the state Democrat party with money funneled from her father and his business interests.

Fayard’s Monday filing indicates she might not have the fundraising magic she was credited for, as so far she’s raised only $21,000 for the Secretary of State race and has just $19,000 in the bank.

That indicates a lot less gas in the tank than Fayard will need if she’s going to make a runoff against some relatively well-heeled Republican challengers. The incumbent, Tom Schedler, raised $79,000 in the last quarter and has $171,000 in the bank. And Schedler is at a disadvantage against state Rep. Walker Hines, who is sitting on $206,000, House Speaker Jim Tucker, who had $191,000 as of the end of last year (he hasn’t filed a current statement since he’s not yet in the race) or Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle, who’s holding $361,000 as of the end of 2010.

The conventional wisdom in the Secretary of State race was that Fayard, being the only Democrat in the contest, would make the runoff against one of the four Republicans. But without a major advance in fundraising, she’s not going to place in the top two.

In all of these races it appears quite obvious – there is no money following Democrats this fall. Even where there are Democrats to follow.

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