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2015 LA Governor's race expected to be most expensive in state - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

2015 LA Governor's race expected to be one of the most expensive in state history

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LOUISIANA (KTBS) -

The race for the next governor of Louisiana is on.  After much speculation, Senator David Vitter officially announced his candidacy. 

"I'm going to do it for the right reasons, focused on the right thing, what's best for all Louisianans, from the best and brightest to our most vulnerable," says Vitter. 

In his announcement, Vitter says he plans to continue to focus on his work in the Senate and won't start an active campaign until next year.  But that doesn't mean Vitter—and his supporters—won't be raising money, in a campaign that's raising the stakes for those running against him.

"Vitter's announcement that he was running for governor I think was the worst kept political secret in Louisiana," says editor for LAPolitics.com Jeremy Alford.

But now the secret is out - and it's only a matter of time before more candidates throw their hat in the ring.

"I think the general impression amongst politicos is that he's trying to clear the field of republicans, but in actuality I think a few more republicans running for governor of Louisiana could help Senator Vitter," says Alford.  "I think he'd be in a much better position to end up in a run-off with a democrat than a republican."

And Alford says there will be other republicans – saying Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne has all but formally announced.  On his campaign website, Dardenne wrote in response to Vitter's announcement, "Our campaign will focus on detailing the promises I've kept to the people of Louisiana and my positive vision for our state moving forward…we will continue to actively fundraise and share our message with folks across the state."

According to Alford, Treasurer John Kennedy has been telling friends and supporters that he is very serious about running.

Executive Director of the Republican Party of Louisiana, Jason Dore, says it's a good problem to have. "We will get behind all the republicans and help get out the republican vote, it's too early to get involved to decide if we're endorsing anybody, but at this point, we'll just be supporting all republicans."

In the meantime, many have their eyes on the candidates' war chests - specifically Vitter's. The pro-Vitter super PAC, "The Fund for Louisiana's Future" is expected to report $1.5 million raised in its first year.

"This is a complete game changer," says Alford.  "We've never seen this in a Louisiana gubernatorial election before, and it's going to lead to one of the most expensive races ever in this state."

Making Vitter a financial force to be reckoned with.  Alford says the other candidates don't have enough time before the election to get something like the pro-Vitter PAC up and running.  And because of the PAC, Vitter doesn't have to be as aggressive about his own fundraising over the next two years. Vitter and his camp have no say in how the super PAC funds are used—but the money is all for Vitter—on top of his own individual campaign funds. 

Vitter's top industry backers are Oil & Gas, Health professionals, Retired individuals, Lawyers and Law Firms, and Real Estate. And some of his top contributors - have donated to Dardenne and Kennedy in the past. This time around, Vitter may have an advantage.

"This is a guy who has been in Washington D.C. for a number of years, who has voted on a number of oil and gas issues, who has authored a number of bills," says Alford, "So when it comes to business and industry, David Vitter definitely has a leg up."

But this doesn't mean the election is in the bag.

"One of the signs that Treasurer John Kennedy may be getting into this race is that he released his campaign finance figures weeks ahead of the deadline," Alford points out. "He announced last week that he has $3 million in the bank, he raised upwards to $825,000 last year, that's an uptick from $225,000 from the previous year, that's a very aggressive showing, very impressive…I think when you have a candidate that can raise money from people that he regulates, it's a bottomless pit."

"Jay Dardenne is looked upon as a not so strong fundraiser, but there are some qualifiers with that.  Jay Dardenne had to raise about $2.7 million to run for Lt. Governor in a special election.  And then he had to stand for the regular scheduled election, and then he had to start all over with his fundraising.  This is a guy who I think raised $1.2 million for Secretary of State which before that was completely unheard of. But Jay Dardenne is a guy who can step it up when needed."

Dardenne and Vitter are expected to file their campaign finance reports in the coming weeks.  When they do, they can be found here (along with Treasurer Kennedy's).  Meanwhile, Vitter's PAC continues to boost fundraising.  It's been pushing to remove Louisiana's $100,000 cap on donations to super PAC's.

According to the Republican party, the more money the better. "The more speech the better, and speech is becoming more and more expensive and that's just one of the unfortunate realities of politics," says Dore.

"Money in the political process equates to having a voice in the political process.  And that's what makes this super PAC debate so interesting," says Alford. "The legal argument is that capping the amount of money a company can donate, you're capping the ability they have for free speech and a say in the process…This is the first time we've seen a governor's race where there are so many outside influences from outside the state trying to have a say inside…Louisiana has never weighed into this debate before. We're being pulled into it now."

So far, "The Fund for Louisiana's Future" has been unsuccessful in removing that $100,000 cap. A rep from the PAC, said the Louisiana limit doesn't comply with a recent US Supreme Court ruling, and the Louisiana Board of Ethics shouldn't be enforcing the cap.  But the board recently ruled they cannot declare a state law unconstitutional or unenforceable.  Now it's expected someone will challenge that limit in federal court.

People and businesses can donate to both PACs and individual candidate campaigns.  Donations to individual campaigns must stop at $2,500.

As we've reported before, one democratic candidate has announced he's running, and that is State Representative John Bel Edwards.  

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