Gubernatorial hopefuls report money raised

Two years ahead of the state’s next gubernatorial election, the only Democratic candidate trails his Republican competition on raising money.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., recently claimed he raised $1.4 million in 20 days. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne has $1.2 million in the bank. State Treasurer John Kennedy — a possible candidate — has a $3 million war chest.

On the Democratic side of the table, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, has $474,725.46 in his campaign fund after collecting $556,345.49 last year. In 365 days, he couldn’t pull in even half what Vitter claims to have collected in just 20 days.

“It’s a little harder for me — and I’m not saying it’s harder just because I’m a Democrat — but as a state representative who doesn’t hold statewide office,” Edwards said Thursday.

Still, Edwards said, he is anything but disappointed in his numbers. He filed his 2013 campaign finance report this week with the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

The next governor’s election is in 2015. Since Gov. Bobby Jindal cannot seek a consecutive third term, the race is wide open.

Vitter immediately jumped to the front of the race when he announced his intentions to run last month. He did not file a report, which covered fundraising for 2013, with the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

A former legislator, Vitter quietly maintained his influence in state political issues, such as the state operating budget and helped build the Legislature.

A third-party Super PAC, The Fund for Louisiana Future, raised $1.5 million last year to support Vitter’s political ambitions. Vitter also is raising money.

Edwards started 2013 with just $37,315.34 in his campaign fund. He announced early that he planned to run for governor and began raising money. He drew contributions from Anheuser-Busch, Wal-Mart’s political action committee, nursing homes and fellow lawyers. Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco wrote him a $1,000 check from her campaign fund.

The Legislature is majority Republican. Many long-time Democrats, including state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and Senate President John Alario, call themselves Republicans.

Alario, of Westwego, made the switch and became the Senate’s top leader under the Republican Jindal after serving as the House’s top leader under a Democratic governor.

Edwards said Blanco gave him a contribution but isn’t making phone calls or hosting fundraisers for him. He said campaign contributions should open up once the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, is over in November. Landrieu is in a battle to maintain her status as Louisiana’s lone Democratic statewide official.

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell said he is surprised Vitter only raised $1.4 million in 20 days. Campbell is a Democrat from Elm Grove. He ran for governor in 2007.

“Vitter ought to be able to raise $40 million,” Campbell said. “He’s owned by the oil companies, the chemical companies.”

LSU political scientist Kirby Goidel said campaigns tend to be self-reinforcing prophecies. The perception, he said, is that Democrats can’t do well in elections so it’s hard for them to raise money.

“As long as you have enough to run competitively, you don’t have to win the money race, but it is sort of telling. This doesn’t work out perfectly. But money tends to go toward the winner. People want to bet on the winner,” Goidel said.

Edwards said he will be fine as long as he can raise $750,000 this year and go into the election year with more than $1 million on hand. “I expect to be there at the end,” he said.