State Elections

Published — November 19, 2015

Outside groups try to help Vitter catch up in Louisiana governor race

9 things to know about the ad wars shaping the Nov. 21 runoffs


The TV ad wars have intensified in Louisiana ahead of final runoff elections Saturday for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, education board and several legislative seats.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican, alludes to a prostitution scandal that has been dogging his bid for Louisiana governor in the ad “Difficult Times” that began airing last week. Youtube/David Vitter

Though U.S. Sen David Vitter was initially the frontrunner in the race to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, he has been dogged by links to a notorious prostitution scandal. The Republican acknowledged his mistake in a TV ad that has aired more than 1,000 times in Louisiana during the past week.

In the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in France, Vitter also pivoted and began airing an ad saying he would deny Syrian refugees entry to the state if elected governor.

But his opponent, Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards, has outspent Vitter on ads since the primary by an estimated $450,000 as he tries to return the governor’s mansion to Democratic hands after eight years of Republican control under Jindal.

Edwards was the top vote-getter in the Oct. 24 gubernatorial primary. Under Louisiana’s open, or “jungle,” primary system, voters select their preferred candidate regardless of party. If no candidate tops 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff.

As Edwards and Vitter make their final appeals to voters, four independent political groups have spent nearly as much as the candidates on their own ads since the primary.

  • No state has seen more state political ads than Louisiana this year, with more than 72,000 broadcast TV ads aired through Monday.   
  • With an estimated $17.3 million spent on TV ads, the Louisiana governor’s race has been the most expensive state election in 2015
  • Since the Oct. 24 primary, candidates and political groups in Louisiana have aired more than six days worth of advertising. 
  • More than 8 in 10 ads aired since the primary have focused on the governor’s race.
  • While Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards has outspent Republican U.S. Sen David Vitter on TV ads since the primary for governor, outside groups have made up the slack and tilted the ad war slightly in Vitter’s favor with 2 percent more broadcast ads. 
  • The top-spending outside group since the primary, Gumbo PAC, has spent more than an estimated $1.2 million attacking Vitter. But three other outside groups have come to his defense and spent more combined. 
  • Overall, the pro-Vitter Fund for Louisiana’s Future, a federal super PAC, has outspent all outside groups in Louisiana this year, airing more than an estimated $3.1 million worth of political advertising. 
  • Outside groups have accounted for more than 1 in 3 ads aired since Louisiana’s primary. 
  • The Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom has spent an estimated $380,000 attacking incumbent Republican Attorney General Buddy Caldwell since the primary. Caldwell’s runoff opponent, Jeff Landry, is also Republican. 

Source: Center for Public Integrity analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG data current through Nov. 16.

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