BellSouth lobbyist Billy Tauzin III (R) raked in contributions from more than two dozen lawmakers over the first three months of his bid to replace his father in Louisiana’s open 3rd Congressional district.
But he has not yet shown the fundraising prowess that some Republicans expected of his campaign.
Tauzin III brought in $257,000 from April 1 to June 30 with $226,000 in the bank — a cash-on-hand total that ranked him fourth among the five candidates who have been raising money for the seat. A sixth candidate entered the race Tuesday.
“Our goal was between $200,000 and $300,000,” said Tauzin III. “We have a lot of things planned that are going to help us raise money.”
He added that he has adopted a “two-pronged approach” to campaigning that focuses on raising money and traveling the district.
“I am not just going to sit in my office and make [fundraising] calls,” Tauzin III said.
Even so, Casey O’Shea, campaign manager for one of Tauzin III’s chief rivals, former American Sugar Cane Association President Charlie Melancon (D), said he was shocked by the Republican’s fundraising total.
“We expected Tauzin to have three times as much money as he showed,” O’Shea said.
Tauzin III retains a huge name-identification edge, however, and as a result he has led in every publicly released poll in the race to date.
On the fundraising front, Melancon has led throughout due in part to his early start. He had $431,000 on hand at the end of June.
State Rep. Damon Baldone (D), the last candidate to enter the race before the June 30 filing deadline with the Federal Election Commission, used a $250,000 personal loan to jump-start his candidacy.
Charmaine Caccioppi (D), a longtime aide to former Sen. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), raised just $133,000 in the three-month period and ended June with $92,000 on hand.
On the Republican side, state Sen. Craig Romero brought in a surprisingly strong $328,000 and banked $369,000.
A third Republican, doctor Kevin Chiasson, announced his candidacy Tuesday.
Under Louisiana election law, all of the candidates will run in a Nov. 2 open primary. If none receives 50 percent of the vote, the two top votegetters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to a Dec. 4 runoff.
For now, the focus both locally and nationally is on Tauzin III as he seeks to follow in his father’s Congressional footsteps.
Rep. Billy Tauzin (R), the former chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, is leaving the southeastern Louisiana 3rd district after 13 terms.
Tauzin, who is recovering from a bout with cancer, is expected to be close to 100 percent recovered starting in September and will spend the final months of his term working to elect his son, according to an informed Republican source.
Tauzin’s dedication to his son’s cause is clearly reflected in the July quarterly reports.
Roughly half of Tauzin III’s take — $131,000 — came from political action committees, including nearly $68,000 from 26 current Republican House Members.
Tauzin III was feted at a Washington, D.C., fundraiser hosted by Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) in June and received contributions from a variety of high-powered Members.
Donors included House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas), Minority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (Calif.), Education and the Workforce Chairman John Boehner (Ohio), Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young (Alaska) and Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (Va.).
By contrast, Tauzin’s four opponents raised a combined $51,000 from the PAC community in the past three months.
And only Melancon has taken a contribution from a current Member. In the first three months of 2004, he received a donation from retiring Sen. John Breaux (D-La.).
Baldone said that while the Tauzin name may have helped raise money in D.C., it has not impeded his own efforts to gather contributions in the district.
“A lot of people have supported the father but are not supporting the son,” said Baldone. “I have supported Big Billy, but this is Little Billy.”
O’Shea agreed, pointing out that “the fact that Charlie has outraised Tauzin nearly 2-to-1 is a clear indication it has not affected our fundraising.”
The campaign manager for Romero, who was largely counted out when Tauzin III decided to enter the contest, said his candidate has not paid much heed to the fundraising of other candidates in the race.
“We are not really paying attention to what other candidates are doing,” said Rickey Verret.
Romero’s fundraising was the surprise of the quarter, although several observers noted that the vast majority of his contributions came from the oil and gas industry.
“He has a seat on the natural resources committee” in the state Senate, said Tauzin III. “That tells a story right there.”
Verret agreed that much of Romero’s cash total has come from the energy industry but believes that is a positive, not a negative.
“Craig is the energy industry candidate,” said Verret, adding that “the important part of the energy industry is that it is not nearly tapped out.”