The advertising blitz in the Louisiana governor's race began Monday, as Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards released his first statewide TV ad, touting his financial stewardship of the state.
Gov. Edwards' campaign described a sizable "seven-figure ad buy" that will have the 30-second spot in heavy rotation on television and websites. The campaign told The Associated Press that it intends to stay on TV through Election Day with the launch of the ad, which also draws a contrast with the deficit-riddled years of Edwards' Republican predecessor.
Louisiana's statewide election is Oct. 12. A runoff, if needed, will be held Nov. 16.
The Deep South's only Democratic governor faces two major GOP challengers trying to keep him from a second term: U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, a doctor from Richland Parish, and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, a longtime donor to conservative causes and first-time candidate.
Edwards' ad starts with an image of Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal and a narrator saying: "Four years ago, Bobby Jindal left Louisiana in crisis." Descriptions follow of budget gaps and the threat of cuts that had lawmakers and the Jindal administration scrambling through piecemeal fixes to keep government programs up and running.
The narrator contrasts that with the current budget surpluses in the most recent two years of the Edwards administration and ends by saying: "And while there's still work to do, Gov. Edwards is leading Louisiana in the right direction."
Abraham and Rispone haven't publicly released timelines for their own TV ad campaigns. Rispone has matched Edwards' $10 million campaign account by putting up his own cash. Abraham lags in cash in the bank, according to the last finance reports, raising questions about whether he can match the ad onslaught of an incumbent governor and a millionaire businessman if Rispone shows he's willing to self-finance his candidacy.
Edwards' ad doesn't describe the taxes he enacted with the majority-Republican Legislature to stabilize the state's finances, close the hefty shortfall left by the Jindal administration and end a decade of budget uncertainty.
After 10 legislative sessions, the governor and lawmakers passed a seven-year tax deal in 2018 that scaled back some tax break programs and raised the state sales tax 0.45 percent above the rate when Edwards took office.
That tax compromise, combined with earlier tax increases enacted by Edwards and lawmakers on items such as cigarettes and alcohol, helped pay for the teacher pay raise, the safety-net hospitals and the full financing of the TOPS college tuition program, which are touted in the governor's new ad.
Abraham and Rispone have slammed the tax hikes as unnecessary, and some House Republican leaders have argued the recent surpluses show that taxes were raised too much. But the GOP candidates and the House leaders haven't offered detailed ideas of where they would shrink state spending to match any tax cuts they're proposing.