…and it’s only February. We’re not sure what else we can say about the ridiculous article Elizabeth Crisp published yesterday purporting to cover the “panic” among Republican circles over fundraising numbers released last week for the two GOP candidates running against John Bel Edwards for governor this fall.
Those numbers were, in a word, unremarkable. Ralph Abraham showed some $350,000 in cash on hand at the end of 2018, a figure representing money he’d raised essentially in a month between the time his congressional re-election race ended, and his subsequent official declaration of a gubernatorial candidacy at which he had hinted for months, and the end of the year. Eddie Rispone, who had declared for governor back in October of last year, had some $5.6 million on hand at year’s end, $5 million of which he’d deposited in his campaign account from personal holdings.
Meanwhile Edwards is showing around $8.5 million, which is the product of non-stop fundraising as the incumbent over the past three years. That’s a nice figure, but it doesn’t convey anything like an insurmountable advantage even over Abraham, whose fundraising we’re told has been in high gear since New Year’s Day (as an example a fundraiser in Lafayette the congressman held last night, two different sources tell us, yielded nearly a quarter-million dollars alone).
So early in a gubernatorial campaign which historically won’t really get going until April or May, it’s never really been thought important what the candidates had on hand. Especially given the pattern of Louisiana governor’s races won by candidates nobody thought had much of a chance early on (Dave Treen, Buddy Roemer, Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco and John Bel Edwards being the majority of recent winners, none of whom had Rispone’s or even Abraham’s war chests at this time in their respective races).
But that didn’t stop Crisp, who is apparently being kicked off the Advocate’s state political beat and packed off to Washington as the paper’s D.C. correspondent to the joy of irritated Republicans from Shongaloo to Grand Isle, from blasting out a piece about how Republicans are scrambling to find candidates other than Abraham and Rispone and using a literally phoned-in source to support that contention.
A high ranking official in the Louisiana GOP has revealed that some Republicans are holding out hope that another candidate will enter the governor’s race this fall, after two candidates already in the race reported raising less than $1 million combined in 2018.
“I’ve been getting a lot of chatter about, ‘Is this the field?’” LAGOP rules chair Scott Wilfong said in a radio interview Tuesday. “There’s definitely some movement to try to get another candidate into the race.”
Wilfong called Abraham’s tally “very concerning.”
“The money discrepancy is huge,” he said during his interview on WRKF. “I know there is a movement to get another candidate in the race. If that will be successful or not, I don’t know.”
There is so much here which is laughable we’re not sure where to begin.
Let’s start with this: not only is Scott Wilfong not a bigwig in the party – and nobody should be surprised if he has chaired his last meeting of the Bylaws Committee, which by the way is not and never has been the basis for status as a “high-ranking official” in the party – but he’s a political consultant known for ginning up candidates to generate fees.
Wilfong was the consultant for A.G. Crowe in last year’s Secretary of State race, after all, and he and his partner Dan Richey milked Crowe for $40,000 in fees despite there never being any chance Crowe was going to win that contest. This year, Wilfong is the consultant for Tim Temple’s similarly-hopeless campaign for Insurance Commissioner, and he’s already extracted almost $17,000 from Temple’s mostly self-funded campaign to date. Temple, by the way, has donated $15,000 to John Bel Edwards and another $5,000 to GumboPAC – what kind of odor do you think Wilfong is in among the LAGOP faithful for having signed on to Temple’s campaign (managed by former Democrat Insurance Commissioner Robert Woolley, who’s already been paid $30,000 for his efforts) to unseat Republican incumbent Jim Donelon?
Anybody who thinks Scott Wilfong, who last year ran for chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party and was soundly defeated, speaks for anybody other than Scott Wilfong when he touts a movement to find somebody else to run is deluded.
Yes, if Steve Scalise were to reverse course and decide he wants to run for governor Republicans all over the state would regard it as an early Christmas present, and yes, there are rumors that might be possible. I had an American Spectator column last week discussing why that would actually be a smart thing for Scalise to do. And yes, Scalise’s victory over John Bel Edwards would be an almost sure thing. But that isn’t what Scott Wilfong is talking about – he isn’t going to be running Steve Scalise for governor, and he doesn’t care about candidates he’s not working for.
And not only is there no “movement” for such a candidate among the party faithful, the party has been quite busy in actively dissuading those candidates from running in order to avoid the crabs-in-a-bucket scenario so often repeated (the 2015 governor’s race and 2018 secretary of state race being prime recent examples) in Louisiana politics. That Wilfong would go on Jim Engster’s show and claim the mantle of the party in promoting more of that same stupidity is pretty insulting, particularly when he’s a prime practitioner and beneficiary of it.
And for Elizabeth Crisp to promote this as though it’s some inside trend within the state GOP, and not an in-kind donation to Edwards’ re-election campaign, gives us good reason to be glad she’s coming off her current beat. The Advocate’s coverage of the gubernatorial race so far has been nothing short of scandalous and this was one more example.
UPDATE: It just so happens that the Louisiana GOP has its own opinion on this issue, and interestingly enough came to a similar conclusion to ours…
Yesterday, comments were made on a Baton Rouge radio station by a member of the Republican State Central Committee, to the effect that there was a “movement” to get another (Republican) candidate into the race to take on John Bel Edwards in the October 12th primary.
By way of clarification, this RSCC member does not speak for the party or its leadership. He is not part of the Executive Committee of the Republican Party of Louisiana, nor is he part of the party’s day-to-day operating staff. He is one of many RSCC members who are certainly entitled to their personal opinion, but the comments made on the radio show were in no wise an official statement by the LAGOP.
“These comments were by one individual. If there were such a broad movement afoot to recruit other GOP candidates into the Governor’s race, we would know about it. We are not aware of any such movement. If anyone from this radio station had reached out to an official LAGOP spokesperson, this wouldn’t have become a problem,” said LAGOP Executive Director Andrew Bautsch.
“From the party’s perspective, we feel very confident that we have two great candidates in the race for Governor, either of whom would bring real leadership and reform to Louisiana,” commented LAGOP Chairman Louis Gurivch.
And Wilfong himself was busily crawfishing today…
None of which stopped another of the Advocate’s JBE stooges – that being Stephanie Grace – from carrying the water jug further.
Now, the governor has obviously had more time to raise money, and none of these reports reflect fundraising after Jan. 1. Still, there are signs that party bigwigs are concerned. A big one is that state GOP rules chair Scott Wilfong went on the radio after the numbers came out and said so.
“I’ve been getting a lot of chatter about, ‘Is this the field?’” Wilfong said in a radio interview with WRKF Tuesday. “The money discrepancy is huge.”
“I know there is a movement to get another candidate in the race. If that will be successful or not, I don’t know,” he said.
So with big names such as U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and Attorney General Jeff Landry already having taken themselves out of contention, expect the reports to set off yet another round of speculation.
That can’t be good news for Abraham and Rispone. It is, however, great news for Edwards.
Which is a pure regurgitation of Crisp’s story which has already been debunked.
And people wonder why the mainstream media is held in such poor regard.