With less than a week left before the Lafayette Parish School Board election, most of the 20 candidates will probably make last-minute pushes to encourage voters to vote Nov. 4. In doing so, they will employ a wide range of financial resources.
A review of campaign finance reports shows most school board candidates have raised less than $10,000 for their campaigns. But some have much more money available, including three candidates with more than $20,000 each. Some have received support from local and state political action committees. Four candidates have no reports filed with the state, likely because of a lack of contributions or a different type of campaign.
When it comes to spending, much of the candidate expenditures have been on the grassroots level. By far, the most money overall has gone toward yard signs, push cards, T-shirts, parade throws, meals for campaign volunteers and mailings, with a few expenses for Facebook ads and consultations with media or advertising companies.
It is typical for candidates for the school board to spend $1,000 to $5,000 to get elected, said University of Louisiana at Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross. The issues are as local as they are the networks. Campaigning takes the form of walking the districts, rallies and signs. As such, there is no need for money for media buys, which are typically ineffective anyway because the districts are so small.
Here is a look at some of the biggest campaign finance trends in this years school board races:
A handful of candidates have surpassed the $10,000 mark in their campaign coffers, many with a combination of contributions, loans, personal money and in-kind donations.
District 8 candidate Erick Knezek has raised the most money so far, with more than $30,000 for his campaign. That includes $27,505 in contributions, $1,230 of his own money and $1,500 from in-kind donations. His campaign has spent $18,261 so far. Knezeks campaign funds are outpacing all other candidates, including his opponent, incumbent Hunter Beasley. Records show that Beasley has collected $1,350 in contributions, including $200 from his personal funds. He has spent $1,062 on his campaign.
Also amassing funds is District 4 incumbent Tehmi Chassion, who has used nearly $19,000 from his own funds for his campaign against challenger Erica Williams. Chassion has also received $5,375 in campaign contributions, bringing his total to $24,341. Records show that Chassion has spent $13,659 on his campaign. Williams meanwhile, has collected $4,325, including $730 of her own money. She has spent $3,313.
In District 9, both candidates have amassed healthy campaign funds. Jeremy Hidalgo has raised $20,399 so far, and received another $1,300 through in-kind contributions. He has also used $1,000 of his personal money. His campaign, which began nearly a year ago, has spent $11,349.
Hidalgos opponent, Brian West, has a total of $13,250 for his campaign. That includes $5,650 in contributions, $6,350 of his personal funds and $1,250 from in-kind contributions. He has spent $6,765 on his campaign.
District 5 incumbent Kermit Bouillion has amassed $13,329, including $11,293 in contributions, $1,096 from his personal funds, a $740 loan and $200 from in-kind donations. He has spent close to $7,000 on his campaign. His opponent, Britt Latiolais, has collected $4,575 and spent $3,103.
PACs, organizations get involved
Several political action committees have donated money to candidates. TPG PAC, led by Tyron Picard of The Picard Group, a government consulting firm, has donated $500 to District 1 candidate Mary Morrison, $200 to Bouillion and $200 to Hidalgo.
The Louisiana Realtors PAC has made the most contributions, with $2,000 each for Morrison, Williams, Bouillion, District 7 candidate Mark Cockerham, Knezek and Hidalgo.
Empower PAC, the political action arm of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, has donated $1,000 each to Williams, Justin Centanni, Cockerham, Knezek and Hidalgo.
Smaller contributions have come from the Acadian Ambulance PAC, which has donated $500 each to Bouillion and Knezek. In addition, LOGPAC, the political action arm of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, has donated a total of $400 to Bouillion in donations and in-kind contributions, and $300 to Hidalgo.
PAC support for school board candidates is somewhat rare, because PACs to support local issues are a fairly new innovation, said Cross. I expect to see a bit more of this in the future, but it is unlikely that PACs will ever be the main driver of campaign finance in school board elections.
Although not official PACS, other groups have shown their support for some candidates. The Lafayette Parish Association of Educators provided nearly $470 in in-kind contributions to Chassion for push cards. Leadership for Lafayette has donated $500 to Bouillion. Leadership for Louisiana has provided $500 each to Centanni, Cockerham and Hidalgo, and the Louisiana Association of Educators donated $250 to Beasley.
In addition to Williams, Latiolais and Beasley, three other candidates have raised less than $5,000 so far — Redell Comeaux Mama Miller in District 1, incumbent Tommy Angelle in District 2, challenger Elroy Broussard in District 3 and challenger Dawn Morris in District 7.
Meanwhile, four candidates did not have any campaign finance reports filed. Those were Coach Don Gagnard (District 1), Simon Mahan (District 2), James Chavis (District 2) and incumbent Shelton Cobb (District 3).
Kathleen Allen, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Ethics Administration, said candidates in some elections, including school board races, do not need to file reports unless they spend more than $2,500 or receive a contribution of more than $200 from any source, excluding the use of their personal funds.
Once they go over one of the thresholds, they are required to file and to continue to file reports for that election, Allen said.
Gagnard said he did not receive any campaign funds, and that the little money he spent for signs and cards came out of his own pocket.
Mahan said he has intentionally limited his campaign finances.
Im not taking any lobbyist money, and Ive capped my expenditures to $635 for the Nov. 4 election — or the amount an average family spends on getting their kids ready for school, he said.
Here are the Lafayette Parish School Board candidate campaign finances, as reported to the Louisiana Ethics Administration. The reports reflected collections and expenditures through late September and mid-October. The figures reflected include financial contributions only and do not include any in-kind contributions.
Source: Louisiana Ethics Administration