BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Republican candidate David Vitter is sitting on more money in the Louisiana governor's race than all other contenders combined, but his three main rivals Tuesday dismissed the financial disparities, saying they have the resources they need to compete with the U.S. senator.
"This is an election and not an auction," said Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, a GOP candidate from Breaux Bridge on the opening day of the election sign-up period. "I'm confident we'll have the right message and enough money."
All four major candidates in the governor's race filled out their paperwork and paid their registration fees in the first hours of the three-day qualifying period for the Oct. 24 ballot. Qualifying runs through Thursday.
Jay Dardenne, the Republican lieutenant governor seeking to edge up to the state's top job, said he never expected to eclipse Vitter in fundraising. He described the senator as having "zillions of dollars" built from leaning on people from his position in Washington.
In the last round of campaign finance reports, Vitter had $5 million in his campaign account, compared to nearly $1.9 million for Dardenne, nearly $1.1 million for state Rep. John Bel Edwards and just over $1 million for Angelle. A separate political action committee supporting Vitter reported $4.4 million, far more than PACs supporting other contenders.
"I knew I would be outspent. I've been outspent two to one or three to one in every one of my statewide races," said Dardenne, a former secretary of state from Baton Rouge. "We're very used to running campaigns that are lean and efficient and that are not based on having the most money."
While both Angelle and Vitter have been advertising, Dardenne has yet to run a TV ad but said he'll be up on the air shortly. Edwards launched his first 30-second television spot in some markets on Labor Day.
"I'm very comfortable I have the money necessary to spread the message that I want to spread," said Edwards, a Democrat from Tangipahoa Parish.
Gov. Bobby Jindal, seeking the GOP presidential nomination, is term-limited and can't run for re-election. That creates the first wide-open race for the seat in eight years.
As the three Republican gubernatorial candidates signed up for their race at the Secretary of State's office in Baton Rouge, a few protesters showed up Tuesday to criticize them.
A shirtless man wearing a fake diaper referenced Vitter's prostitution scandal. Two others objected to Dardenne's international travel as lieutenant governor and two people demonstrated in objection to a lucrative board position with energy company Sunoco that is held by Angelle, a former natural resources secretary.
Also jumping in the governor's race were two lesser-known candidates who have done little fundraising: Cary Deaton, a lawyer and Democrat, and Beryl Billiot, an independent who works for an oil field equipment company.
With Dardenne seeking to move up to the governor's mansion, that also creates a heated competition for the state's No. 2 job. Three Republicans have paid their fees to be on the ballot for lieutenant governor: state Sen. Elbert Guillory; former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser; and Jefferson Parish President John Young.
Incumbents in most of the other five statewide offices signed up for their races, including Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, Treasurer John Kennedy, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain. All the men are Republicans, and each drew opponents Tuesday, though only some have well-financed challengers.
The attorney general's race is expected to be a tight contest with Caldwell facing a challenge from former GOP Congressman Jeff Landry.
Caldwell described the race as "about qualifications, experience and integrity." He's criticized Landry as having no courtroom background and being too inexperienced for the attorney general's job.
Landry touted himself as the race's only conservative candidate and said he'd bring "honesty and integrity to the attorney general's office." He said Caldwell has bloated the agency's budget and handed too much legal work to his campaign contributors.
Also in the race is attorney Marty Maley, another Republican.
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Posted on Wed, September 9, 2015
by MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press