Cassidy raises more than $500,000

 U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy
U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy

Rep. Bill Cassidy on Monday touted raising more than $500,000 in campaign funds thus far this year, although he still trails the war chest of his potential election opponent, incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Cassidy has not yet announced he will challenge Landrieu, D-La., next year, but he is already pushing his fundraising totals about two weeks before they are publicly released by the Federal Election Commission.

Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, both physicians in their third congressional terms, have spent time attacking Landrieu recently as they battle for leverage as the top GOP contender to the three-term Democratic senator.

“Raising over $500,000 in the first quarter puts my campaign in an extremely strong position,” Cassidy said in his announcement. “I am so grateful to the many people who have generously supported me and my efforts.”

Cassidy had a war chest of about $2.4 million as of the end of March, which puts him well ahead of the paces set by previous challengers like state Treasurer John Kennedy against Landrieu and former Rep. Charles Melancon against Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

However, Landrieu had $2.53 million in cash on hand at the end of the year and she is expected to have increased that total in the past three months. Her campaign spokeswoman, Tina Stoll, said they are still counting up dollars and are not yet ready to release any totals.

Likewise, Fleming’s spokesman, Doug Sachtleben, said they will release their figures in the normal timeframe in about two weeks. Fleming had previously reported more than $480,000 on hand at the end of the year. However, Fleming is the wealthiest member of the delegation and could partially self-finance a campaign. In the past 10 days or so, Fleming has ramped up his attacks on Landrieu with news releases almost daily and sometimes multiple times a day criticizing her Senate budget votes. Fleming is working with political consultant John Brabender, who has previously worked with candidates like Vitter and former GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum. Cassidy is working with Baton Rouge-based consultants Jason Hebert and Scott Hobbs of The Political Firm, after parting ways with Timmy Teepell, who has served as Gov. Bobby Jindal’s top consultant.

Former U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, and state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Chas Roemer also have flirted with challenging Landrieu, but neither of them has been as vocal as Cassidy and Fleming.

Cassidy also laid out his political message in his fundraising announcement.