Louisiana is in need of a new governor.
At a time when the national economy is doing much better than it had been in the years prior to Donald Trump taking office, unemployment is at an all-time low, wages are up, and people are generally doing better than they were. The same, however, cannot be said for Louisiana.
In 2015, Louisiana elected Democrat John Bel Edwards to be the governor. In the four years that he’s been in office, Louisiana’s population has shrunk amid out-migration and jobs disappearing. The state’s largest industry – oil and gas – is being sued out of the state by the governor’s allies, the trial lawyers. After promising to not raise taxes, he raised taxes (and when a sales tax was about to expire, he bullied the legislature into renewing a portion of it and called it a “tax cut”).
He did raise teachers’ salaries though (by somewhere between $50-80 per month). He also eliminated the budget deficit (created by budgets he voted for as a legislator and using sales taxes he raised and claimed to have cut). So, there’s that.
Louisiana could have done better in 2015, but the state’s GOP took for granted that Louisiana is a red state and assumed that three Republicans fighting each other wouldn’t be a problem. Then, Edwards won and Louisiana has suffered.
The state has another chance this year. So far, and with the primary less than a month away, Edwards has been unable to poll above 50%. Under Louisiana’s jungle primary rules, that means he would be in a runoff with the second-place candidate. All of the polling suggests that Congressman Ralph Abraham is the best candidate to take Edwards on in the November run-off.
The other Republican in the race, Eddie Rispone, is a good, conservative guy. He is a very successful businessman and has been supportive of conservatives and conservative causes for years. However, the way he has run his campaign suggests he lacks the ability to properly lead the state. Abraham, on the other hand, is a successful leader in Louisiana.
Rispone’s campaign has targeted Abraham for missing votes as a congressman. Abraham has missed those votes because he is running for governor. Furthermore, being in Washington D.C. is not the only way a congressman can represent his or her constituents (one could argue that it is, in fact, the least effective way to do so). Being someone whose office is reachable and makes every effort to help constituents, who has given up speaking at political events in order to be in his district when natural disasters strike, and who has literally served his country through the armed forces is someone who has done far more to represent his district than a capitol city businessman who makes donations to candidates.
Rispone, as someone who wants to lead the state, has staffed his campaign with out-of-state strategists who have thoroughly mishandled Rispone’s messaging.
The consulting firm Leverage Public Strategies, out of Birmingham, which has been paid upwards of $50,000 since April according to campaign finance reports, is owned by Blake Harris, the political consultant who currently serves as the chief of staff to Tennessee governor Bill Lee, and Heather Wilson – not the same Heather Wilson who recently served as the secretary of the Air Force. Neither, to the best of our knowledge, has ever worked a race in Louisiana.
Ditto for Bryan Reed of Arlington Heights, Illinois, who has been paid $60,000 since April as the campaign manager.
Then there’s the ad team of Something Else Strategies of Easley, South Carolina, which since April has reeled in just over $200,000 to produce Rispone’s TV ads which everybody has complained about. One employee of Something Else, Mandy Fraher, lives on the Northshore and has run a Louisiana race; she was the campaign manager for John Kennedy’s failed Senate race against Mary Landrieu in 2008 and, to the best of our knowledge, has not been involved in an in-state race since. How much involvement Fraher had in the production of those commercials we don’t know.
Brian Sanderson, of Three Oak Group based in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, has also never worked a Louisiana race before to the best of our knowledge. Sanderson, who so far has been paid about $42,000, is an alumnus of the Haley Barbour political machine in the Magnolia State.
To the best of our knowledge Grand Rapids, Michigan political consultant Jordan Gehrke hasn’t run a Louisiana race before, either. He’s been paid $183,000 since April to do a “statewide modeling program” which we’re assuming is what’s driven the strategy behind those ads.
His messaging plan, from the start, has been “I support Donald Trump and I will oppose sanctuary cities and political correctness.” Of those three issues, approximately zero of them matter when it comes to the economic issues stated toward the beginning of this column. As a businessman, Rispone should be extremely capable of talking about Louisiana’s terrible business climate, shrinking population, and diminishing job opportunities. But, he has let the out-of-state consultants make a lot of money off of him (yes, him directly – he loaned his campaign millions of dollars to self-fund his own campaign).
If your job as Louisiana’s governor is to put Louisiana first, you don’t do that by hiring people who aren’t from Louisiana and who don’t seem to know the issues affecting the state. You also don’t make the mistake most Democrats make when they try to make every little political issue about Trump in some way. Especially when a recent poll gives Trump a 54% approval rating in the state.
If this were just electability, then I could point out that it’s likely that Rispone peaked at 19% in the polls. One released yesterday had him at 16%. Barring him just cleaning house and starting over with a new consulting staff, it doesn’t look like he’ll break 20% (and, if he does, it won’t be much higher than that). But, this is more than just electability.
This is about leadership, and his hiring decisions seem very questionable and very much not Louisiana First. Abraham, however, has represented the people who have sent him to Congress very well, has served our country, and is the most capable conservative in the race for governor. Louisiana should vote for him on October 12, and put him into a run-off against Edwards. The Republicans have more than enough voters to make him the governor, but that support has to start now. Please vote for Abraham for governor, and make a donation to help him get to the capitol.