Over the weekend, the Baton Rouge Advocate had a piece by Mark Ballard about the crowded race to replace Bill Cassidy in the 6th Congressional District of Louisiana.
Ballard’s take on the race: it will be a complete fracas decided by a close margin…
The reason why this Louisiana congressional race is expected to get dicey is because only one Republican likely will make the Dec. 6 runoff — probably against former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, a Democrat — in a race for a seat that almost assuredly will go GOP.
Even though the 6th District’s 491,000 registered voters overwhelmingly support Republican candidates — Cassidy received 79 percent of the vote in 2012 — the supporters of the eight will be spread so thin that only a handful of ballots will separate the top vote-getters.
That was Saturday. Today, we see indications Ballard might be dead wrong. Because while it’s difficult to find a clear favorite in the polls for a Republican entry alongside former governor and federal inmate Edwin Edwards, who is expected to make the runoff, there appears to be a certain favorite on the money side.
A release this afternoon by the campaign of Garret Graves…
Conservative Republican candidate for Congress, Garret Graves announced today that he will report raising $493,354 for the second quarter, with a cash on hand total of $722,070. This brings Graves’ overall fundraising total to-date to $814,182 in four months.
“These are remarkable fundraising numbers for a candidate in an open seat. I believe it’s a testament to the enthusiasm people have in electing a bright young conservative problem solver,” said Christel Slaughter, Campaign Treasurer. “When you have a good product, it sells itself.”
Hundreds of donors from across Louisiana donated to Graves’ campaign. The movement has included support from Mary Matalin, the Koch PAC, more than a dozen parish presidents and hundreds of hard-working Louisiana natives looking for proven leadership.
“We’ve run this campaign with the same approach we’ll take to governing. We’ve been fiscally-sound and tactically-smart- two skills they could use in Washington. As we move forward, I’m confident we’ll be able to win this race and take these values to Washington and repeal Obama’s reckless agenda,” said Graves.
Raising just under a half-million dollars in a single quarter for a congressional race is absolutely breathtaking. By comparison, Bill Cassidy’s 2nd quarter filing in 2012 showed him raising only $264,000. While Cassidy didn’t have a viable opponent and therefore wasn’t in a hot race necessitating aggressive fundraising he was nevertheless an incumbent – not a first-time candidate. An incumbent who was in a hot race was Charles Boustany, and Boustany’s 2nd quarter filing that year showed him raising $741,000. Boustany’s opponent Jeff Landry was also an incumbent, though Landry was in a very difficult race after being essentially thrown into Boustany’s district. He raised $293,000 in the 2nd quarter of 2012.
As you can see, that’s a monster figure.
The fact that he was able to raise it without spending hardly anything to get it makes Graves the 800-pound gorilla in the race at this point.
Nobody knows who Graves is yet, and he doesn’t show up in the polls as a result. He’s coming into elective politics after a long stint as a congressional staffer, which would have kept him out of the public eye, and a shorter stint as the head of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which makes him known to some governmental officials and a few voters in the southern parts of the district.
But with the kind of war chest Graves is building, he will have the ability to define himself as no other candidate so far looks to be able. He’s also built a team around him full of well-known names in Louisiana politics – Josh Robinson, Cassidy’s former chief of staff and the guru behind Vance McAllister’s 2013 special election win being one, and Jason Hebert and Scott Hobbs of Baton Rouge-based The Political Firm being others – and he has the fuel to use their talents.
(Edit: Robinson was on board to help get the campaign off the ground, but his role has been completed for now. Graves’ general consultant is Chris Carr, a McNeese State graduate who has worked at the RNC and for the Romney campaign in 2012, among other national roles).
This is not to say Graves can’t be beaten, or even that he’s the best candidate. But that second-quarter figure is a major obstacle for any of Graves’ challengers to overcome. From this point they’ll be short-stacked and outspent, and they’ll have to win with guerrilla campaigns based on grassroots support and word-of-mouth name ID.
Don’t be shocked to see a host of viral campaign videos like the ones Dan Claitor, Lenar Whitney and Craig McCulloch have released recently. Those are relatively cheap to produce and they offer a chance to capture the imagination of conservatives outside of the district who might help to alleviate the disadvantage the candidates will have against Graves.
To match what Graves has in the bank will require 2nd quarter disclosures that frankly don’t appear possible. Dietzel’s first quarter filing showed him with $70,000 in the bank. Claitor’s said he had $134,000. McCulloch had $107,000. Cassie Felder had $19,000. Nobody else even showed any appreciable war chest outside of the $32,000 Edwards claimed on his disclosure.