A super PAC supporting Stephen Waguespack’s campaign for governor will launch a $1.75 million TV ad blitz Monday in a bid to increase Waguespack’s name recognition five months before the gubernatorial primary.
The ad from Reboot Louisiana – which raised most of its money from groups that don’t reveal their donors – will run statewide, PAC Director Lionel Rainey said. It introduces Waguespack, a Republican, as “pro-law enforcement” and says he “supports parents rights.” An announcer declares in its opening that “Politicians aren’t going to save Louisiana,” a nod to Waguespack’s resume, which doesn’t include time served in an elected office.
Waguespack, a late entrant to the governor’s race, has spent the last decade as president and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the powerful lobbying group that represents some of Louisiana’s largest corporations. Before that, he served as a senior aide to then-Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The ad campaign is significant because Waguespack, who is well known in state government circles but not statewide, must introduce himself to a wide swath of voters if he hopes to make the Nov. 18 runoff, where the top two vote-getters will face off if no candidate wins more than 50% of votes in the Oct. 14 primary.
Democrat Shawn Wilson is seen as having an inside track to one of those spots, as the only major Democrat presently in the race. TV ads are the main way candidates reach voters in gubernatorial campaigns.
Waguespack aims to catch up to Attorney General Jeff Landry, who has amassed a large warchest and is leading the Republican field in most polls. Landry and Treasurer John Schroder, who is also running, have already launched TV ads; Wilson has launched a digital ad.
Reboot Louisiana PAC, which Rainey said was formed this year to support Waguespack’s bid, raised $1.7 million in under three weeks, mostly from 501(c)(4) groups that don’t disclose their donors. That haul includes a $1 million donation from American Advancement, Inc., which appears to be run by Evan Handy; and $100,000 each from Safe Streets Safe Communities and American Jobs and Growth Fund. Those firms appear to be run by Thomas Norris; Safe Streets is a 501(c)(4) and it appears American Jobs and Growth Fund is as well. All three are from out of state. Neither Handy nor Norris responded to calls.
Waguespack, in a recent interview, said that he did not know the people behind the dark money groups and that his campaign does not coordinate with the PAC. By law, Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited sums as long as they do not coordinate with candidates. Waguespack’s campaign, however, must limit the amount of money it receives from each donor.
“There are entities and PACs in multiple states that do messaging all across the country,” Waguespack said. “That is very common. I have no idea who it is or what they’re doing. I can tell you our campaign has a groundswell of support, there are donors coming in from all over the state.”
Staff writer Tyler Bridges contributed to this story.