Senate race becomes most expensive ever waged in La.

by Walter Pierce

So far the two lead contenders have deposited more than $21.5 million into their accounts, with more certainly to come.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy

If you're already growing weary of seeing all those television ads about Louisiana's hotly contested U.S. Senate race, then you'll take little comfort in learning that there's now more money flowing into the candidates' campaign accounts than in any other comparable statewide election in recent history.

So far the two lead contenders have deposited more than $21.5 million into their accounts, with more certainly to come.

Incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, has raised $13.5 million this cycle, according to her second quarter finance report filed this week with the Federal Election Commission. That's nearly $2 million more than she collected during her entire 2008 re-election campaign - and there's still three and a half months to go until the November primary.

Her lead challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, has raised $8 million thus far. That well exceeds the $2.8 million that was raised by Landrieu's last major challenger, Treasurer John Kennedy, six years ago.

When coupled with all of the outsider spending by third-party groups, John Couvillon, president of JMC Analytics, said this fall's U.S. Senate race is already the most expensive election Louisiana has ever seen.

"With all of the recent court rulings on unlimited fundraising by super PACs and the possibility that this race could decide the partisan makeup of the Senate, the spigots have been turned wide open," he said. "The expenditure figures indicate to me that for once a Louisiana statewide race is very prominent on the national level."

The last major Senate race Louisiana saw was in 2010, when incumbent GOP Sen. David Vitter raised $12.5 million to defend his seat. In that runoff, he bested former Congressman Charlie Melancon, a Democrat who raised $4 million for his challenge.

Adding to the Landrieu-Cassidy tally this cycle is retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness of Mandeville. A Republican newcomer to politics, Maness has managed to transform his fringe candidacy into one the other campaigns are keeping their eyes on, largely due to support from national tea party groups. So far Maness has raised $1.25 million.