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  • Writer's pictureStaff @ LPR

ALFORD: Governor’s race is being televised earlier than usual

A handful of candidate campaigns and outside spending groups involved in this year’s race for governor have either already advertised on broadcast television and cable or they’re planning to jump onto traditional airwaves very soon.

To have one camp venture onto TV early—like former Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle did in February 2015, during the last open race for governor—isn’t surprising. But to see so much interest from different corners of the field during early spring is unique.

In fact, most gubernatorial candidates from yesteryear didn’t get serious about commercials until late summer or around Labor Day. This cycle, however, may be the exception.

Treasurer John Schroder was the first to get on screen this cycle with more than $400,000 in television, mostly in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The move was bold and left many politicos wondering why Schroder was so eager to be first on television.

“This is purely a function of having a clear frontrunner on the Republican side in Attorney General Jeff Landry,” says media consultant Jared Arsement, who’s working for the campaign of former Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson.

Arsement adds,”But this isn’t like 2015. The other Republican candidates are significantly less known than Scott Angelle and former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne were. They had higher name ID and polled better. So you see Schroder and others, and they have to build themselves out a bit more. But there’s no way to sustain a significant level of spending if you want to reach statewide between now and Election Day. Maybe if you hopscotch back and forth between markets.”

For example, Gov. John Bel Edwards went up on television on July 8 during the 2019 election cycle and stayed on the airwaves through the primary. “We spent more than $9 million statewide for that,” Arsement says. “And it’s more expensive now.”

While Schroder, who doesn’t have money to waste, may have gone up on television to move the needle on his polling, Landry joined him on the tube last week for entirely different reasons. Landry, who has a field-leading $6 million in the bank and can afford to be aggressive with his media, opened with a commercial that focused on crime prevention.

“The ad we have up right now is a multimarket ad,” says Landry spokesperson Kate Kelly. “It’s starting in Baton Rouge, but will go throughout the state. It will run on every medium.”

It’s not clear which camp will be on television next, but attorney Hunter Lundy, an independent from Lake Charles, has loaned his campaign nearly $2 million and is expected to place his first ad buy within the next six weeks or so.

Lundy consultant Pres Robinson sees some of the same storylines as Arsement. “Name ID is low for most of the candidates and voters’ allegiances are soft across the board,” Robinson says.

As for outside spending groups, Lionel Rainey III says TV is in the near future for his Reboot Louisiana PAC, which has $1.7 million in the bank to support former LABI President Stephen Waguespack. ”

Could all of these early entries force media budgets to climb for the cycle? Rainey says it could go either way. “It could turn into an arms race,” he says.

Asked about Waguespack’s media timeline, a campaign spokesperson says, “Our campaign is committed to taking our message directly to Louisiana voters through many channels including TV ads.”

Another candidate, state Rep. Richard Nelson, says, “We’re planning an unconventional campaign focused on earned and social media, likely involving dinosaurs. Legacy media will be part of the mix, but we have to make every dollar count.”

For her part, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt says she’s focused on the session, but keeping tabs on all of the political action. “I will let the boys fight over TV ads on the sidelines while I get things done in the state Legislature for the families of Louisiana,” she says.

As for the Democratic side, Arsement rightly noted that Wilson, the lone marketable Dem in the race at this hour, isn’t faced with the same kind of media timeline as the Republican contenders. “I have nothing to report at the moment,” Arsement says when asked about Wilson’s plans.

Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.

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