BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Political donors aren't breaking out their checkbooks in Louisiana's secretary of state race.
Most contenders for the job in the Nov. 6 special election have limited dollars to get their messages out in the final weeks of a race that has drawn little interest from campaign contributors or voters, even though it's the only statewide competition on the ballot.
The six major candidates seeking to be the state's elections chief reported modest fundraising in finance reports filed Tuesday with the Louisiana Ethics Administration Program. Many listed small sums on hand to pay for TV advertising and direct mail in campaigns that have focused more on personal contact at parades, speeches and forums. And several candidates have poured their own money into campaign efforts to cover expenses.
The latest reports chart collections and spending from July 30 through Sept. 27.
The fundraising battle seems to center on interim Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, a Baton Rouge Republican in the position since May, and state Rep. Julie Stokes, a Kenner Republican.
Ardoin raised the most campaign cash during the period, $140,000, narrowly edging out Stokes, who brought in nearly $134,000 in contributions.
Stokes reported the largest amount of money in the bank, dwarfing her competitors with $514,000 on hand. But that includes a $250,000 personal loan. Ardoin held just under $208,000 in his campaign account, including a $25,000 personal loan.
"The secretary of state is always the most difficult office to raise money for, primarily because you can't do anything for anybody. It's an office that protects and administers elections," said Lionel Rainey, Ardoin's political consultant.
With multiple Republicans in the race competing for dollars, "for most donors I think they're saying, 'We'll wait until the runoff,'" Rainey said.
Turkey Creek Mayor Heather Cloud, a Republican, reported nearly $106,000 remaining in her account, but the majority stems from the $100,000 she loaned her campaign in July.
Two GOP contenders who have strong backing in the evangelical Christian community, Baton Rouge state Rep. Rick Edmonds and former state Sen. A.G. Crowe of Pearl River, appear to be splitting up support, and spending at a quicker pace than competitors.
Edmonds raised more than $69,000 and closed with about $51,000 on hand. Crowe wrapped up the period with nearly $23,000 in the bank, after receiving about $47,000 in donations. He loaned his campaign $90,000 in June.
Democratic contender Renee Fontenot Free, a former top aide to two secretaries of state, took in more than $36,000 from contributors and ended with about $29,000 in the bank. But as the lone, major Democrat in the race, she's considered a strong possibility to reach the Dec. 8 runoff.
No candidate is on television yet, though a few campaigns have said they will launch such advertising within the next week. Based on the figures in the finance reports, it appears not all the contenders will be able to afford such an expense.
Ardoin and Edmonds already reported spending money on radio advertising on a conservative talk radio show, and a few candidates have doled out small amounts of cash for social media advertising.
The special election was set when Republican Tom Schedler resigned as secretary of state after an employee filed a lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment. Ardoin, Schedler's chief assistant, moved into the position until someone is elected for the remaining year of the term.
Nine candidates are in the race. Three other contenders reported little or no fundraising. Early voting begins Oct. 23.