GOP intraparty fighting flares up in Louisiana governor race

Louisiana Politics

Ralph Abraham & Eddie Rispone / Courtesy: AP

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — While Louisiana Republicans have cautioned that infighting among GOP candidates could sink efforts to retake the governor’s mansion, a political action committee backing U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham isn’t following requests to avoid intraparty attacks.

The Securing Louisiana’s Future PAC, which is supporting Abraham in the Oct. 12 election, released a Facebook ad panning fellow Republican contender Eddie Rispone, a wealthy Baton Rouge businessman.

FILE – In this March 18, 2019, file photo, Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone speaks at a business event hosted by the Republican Governors Association in Baton Rouge, La. Rispone, one of the Republican candidates in the Louisiana governor’s race has released his first TV ad, touting support of President Donald Trump. Rispone’s 30-second spot began airing statewide Tuesday, July 23, 2019 in what his campaign described as a $1 million media buy. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte, File)

“Eddie Rispone is trying to buy this election — but he can’t win,” the ad says.

Abraham, a third-term congressman, and Rispone, a first-time candidate who poured $10 million of his own money into his campaign account, are trying to keep incumbent John Bel Edwards from a second term as the Deep South’s only Democratic governor.

“There’s a reason why our opponents are already attacking us: they know that Eddie Rispone is the only pro-Trump, conservative outsider in this race, and that’s exactly what Louisianans want as their next governor,” Rispone spokesman Anthony Ramirez said in a statement.

Abraham’s campaign says it doesn’t have control over what the PAC does. The outside groups can raise and spend unlimited money to support a candidate, but cannot coordinate directly with a candidate’s campaign.

“We’re 100% focused on defeating John Bel Edwards and hope all Republicans and conservative groups remain focused on that goal,” Abraham’s political consultant Lionel Rainey said in a statement.

FILE – In this March 18, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham speaks at a business event hosted by the Republican Governors Association in Baton Rouge, La. While Louisiana Republicans have cautioned that infighting among GOP candidates could sink efforts to retake the governor’s mansion, a political action committee backing U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham isn’t following requests to avoid intraparty attacks. The Securing Louisiana’s Future PAC, which is supporting Abraham in the Oct. 12 election, released a Facebook ad panning fellow Republican contender Eddie Rispone, a wealthy Baton Rouge businessman. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte, File)

But the digital ad shows that efforts to avoid Republican-on-Republican attacks ahead of the election could be difficult, if not impossible, as the race heats up.

In March, Louisiana GOP Chairman Louis Gurvich called on the Republican gubernatorial candidates to focus their criticism on Edwards. He said Republicans “must wage this campaign in the knowledge that Republican infighting only assures a second victory for John Bel Edwards.”

Gurvich’s statement came after Rispone’s campaign appeared to be linked to a website questioning the conservative bonafides of Abraham and suggesting Abraham doesn’t support President Donald Trump.

In Louisiana’s open primary system, all candidates for governor run on the same ballot, regardless of party.

Concerns about GOP backbiting are particularly acute ahead of this election because Republicans blame attacks among their own candidates for helping to elect Edwards four years ago. In that 2015 race, Republican candidates Scott Angelle and Jay Dardenne focused their criticism on GOP rival David Vitter instead of Edwards in the primary, and Vitter limped into a runoff against Edwards badly wounded from the hits.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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