Republicans lead in fundraising in 5th District race

The top Republican candidates are dominating in fundraising numbers in the 5th Congressional District special election to replace former Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman.

State Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, who was the first candidate to enter the race, raised more than $560,000 through September. He is followed by state Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, and his more than $270,000 collected.

Morris, a lawyer, has loaned his campaign nearly $300,000 as well to keep pace with Riser, according to Federal Election Commission numbers updated this week.

Former congressman and current Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, of Forest Hill, is next with about $134,000 raised, in addition to more than $110,000 he has personally loaned to his campaign.

The top Democrat in fundraising is state Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville, with more than $122,000 in contributions.

Democratic Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo reported $17,700 in funds raised.

The open primary special election is Oct. 19.

The only other candidates with updated FEC numbers are former state Rep. Weldon Russell, D-Amite, with over $6,200 raised and Republican engineer Phillip “Blake” Weatherly, of Calhoun, with $600 collected.

Other competitive candidates such as state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, and Republican Monroe businessman Vance McAllister have not had their fundraising totals posted yet.

Morris is leading Riser in spending with roughly $378,000 in expenditures, compared with nearly $350,000 for Riser.

Holloway has spent more than $100,000.

Riser is leading in remaining cash on hand to spend with more than $210,000 available.

Morris has nearly $190,000 in the bank and Holloway has about $145,000 in cash. Out of the Democrats, Johnson has more than $62,000 in cash on hand and Mayo reported more than $15,000 in the bank.

The redrawn 5th Congressional District is the state’s poorest, most rural and by far the largest geographically, stretching from Monroe down to Alexandria and into the Florida parishes, which includes suburban and bedroom communities in East Feliciana.

Alexander stepped down last month to take a job in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s cabinet.

University of Louisiana at Monroe political scientist Joshua Stockley said he is “impressed” with Riser’s fundraising and that the numbers are mostly what he expected.

The winner of the average congressional special election typically spends about $700,000 by the end of the runoff and Riser is on that pace, Stockley said.

The others, such as Morris and Holloway, may be relying too much on “self funding” thus far.

“Elections cost money and you need a lot of money to win,” he said.

The Democrats are struggling to raise money and are dividing a diminishing voter pool, Stockley said. As such, the most likely scenario is two Republicans in the runoff with one spot going to Riser. Holloway currently has an edge over Morris for the second slot, Stockley said.

Mayo called fundraising “challenging” over the short election turnaround and he acknowledged that two Republicans could get into the runoff.

Mayo said his “grass-roots” campaigning is more effective than the numbers show and that the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government has upset voters in Louisiana and will hurt the Republicans when the votes are cast.

Riser has campaign contributions from the political action committees of Alexander; House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va; and Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson; Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette; and John Fleming, R-Minden.

Riser has spent more than $180,000 with the GOP consulting firm OnMessage Inc., which employs Timmy Teepell, who is Jindal’s chief political consultant.

Holloway, who oversees utilities in the state on the Public Service Commission, has donations from the Atmos Energy Corp. PAC in Dallas, American Electric Power in Shreveport, Centerpoint Energy Inc. PAC in Houston, CLECO PAC in Pineville and the NRG Energy Inc. PAC in New Jersey.

CLECO also has given smaller donations to Riser and Morris.

Also on the 5th Congressional District ballot are Fairbanks oil and gas landman Tom Gibbs; Lettsworth resident Peter Williams; Baton Rouge underwriter S.B.A. Zaitoon; New Orleans real estate agent Eliot Barron; and Libertarian Delhi resident Henry Herford Jr.