Republican Ralph Abraham has started pumping his own money into his campaign to be Louisiana governor, struggling to keep up with the spending pace of his competitors in his bid to unseat Democrat John Bel Edwards.
Latest finance reports in the race show the third-term congressman from rural northeast Louisiana has loaned his campaign $350,000 in the final stretch leading to the Oct. 12 election.
“As I’ve said from the beginning, I will do whatever it takes to win this race. We must and we will defeat John Bel Edwards because our children’s futures depend upon it,” Abraham said in a statement Thursday.
Abraham, a farmer and doctor who announced his campaign less than a year ago, has been unable to match the fundraising prowess of an incumbent governor who has been seeking donations across his four-year tenure.
Meanwhile, Abraham’s fellow GOP competitor, wealthy businessman Eddie Rispone, is largely self-financing his election bid, pouring more than $11 million into his campaign account. And some recent polls suggest Rispone has leap-frogged Abraham into second-place.
Reports filed Wednesday night with Louisiana’s ethics administration office show Abraham reporting less than $319,000 on hand as the campaign reaches its final week before the primary.
By comparison, Rispone reported $2.7 million in the bank. And Edwards was sitting on $3.2 million in the reports covering a 20-day fundraising and spending period through Sept. 22.
While Rispone and Edwards each shelled out more than $3 million to blanket the airwaves, websites and mailboxes with ads, Abraham spent less than $1 million during the same time. He hasn’t matched his opponents’ advertising reach, instead trying to fill the gaps with in-person appearances around the state, media interviews and endorsement events with local elected officials.
Democrats criticized Abraham’s loans to his campaign, saying they highlight his reneging on an early congressional campaign promise to donate his $174,000 annual U.S. House salary to charity.
“This is a new low for Rep. Abraham,” Edwards spokesman Eric Holl said in a statement. Holl said Abraham should give the charitable organizations “the money he owes them instead of using his taxpayer salary to fund his campaign.”
Abraham’s spokesman has said the congressman gave the money to charitable organizations during his first term but started keeping his salary in his second term. Abraham said he’s continued to donate additional sums to charity.
In addition to the personal loans to his campaign, Abraham moved $30,000 from his congressional campaign fund to a super PAC supporting his candidacy, called Securing Louisiana’s Future.
Early voting continues through Saturday.
Polls show Edwards well ahead of his competitors, with Abraham and Rispone trying to keep him from an outright primary victory. In Louisiana, all contenders run on the same ballot regardless of party. If Edwards doesn't top 50% of the vote on Oct. 12, he'll face a head-to-head Nov. 16 matchup against the second-place finisher.