The Republican Governors Association Right Direction PAC has launched a new ad in Louisiana attacking Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shawn Wilson as a “kingmaker” who doled out a sweetheart deal to a political donor.
The 30-second spot will run on television and digital platforms statewide and represents “a significant investment,” according to the PAC.
The ad paints an image of a “sweetheart deal” Wilson gave to Democratic megadonor Jim Bernhard, which it contends put a $5 million consulting contract for a new bridge in Baton Rouge into the hands of the least qualified bidder.
“Shawn Wilson expects Louisianans to trust him to run the entire state when they couldn’t even trust him to run the Department of Transportation,” RGA National Press Secretary Courtney Alexander said of Wilson’s decision when he was the state’s Secretary of Transportation. “Shawn Wilson may be good at rigging contracts, but he’d be a disaster for the state.”
The ad begins with a news report stating “a decision at the Department of transportation is raising eyebrows.” It then pivots to a narrator who claims that “to build a bridge, Wilson handed out a sweetheart deal to the least qualified bidder.”
Questions were raised. The consulting contract was awarded to Atlast Technical Consultants, an LLC owned by Bernhard’s Bernhard Capital Partners. Its bid scored 61.98, lower than two other firms. AECOM, the highest scoring bidder, unsuccessfully appealed Wilson’s choice.
At the time, Wilson noted that technical scores are not the only factor in choosing a firm and pointed to unweighted support from regional leaders and members of the Capital Area Road and Bridge District, which was leading efforts to finance the new bridge at the time.
Still, the RGA-backed ad points to a possible connection between Wilson and Bernhard, noting that he is a “Democrat megadonor.”
“We never got a bridge, but Shawn Wilson’s friends got paid,” the narrator ends in the ad.
The bridge has indeed not yet been built, but plans are still in the works. The project has been plagued by controversy and the usual red tape associated with large infrastructure projects. One hang-up has been on support, or lack thereof, for toll roads. The project calls for tolls to help offset costs.
Wilson is a Democrat running to replace incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Republicans are fiercely trying to win back the Governor’s seat now that Bel Edwards is not seeking re-election due to term limits.
Wilson is one of three Democrats running. The Republican field is far more crowded, with eight candidates currently running. Wilson is considered a top contender, along with Republican Jeff Landry, who has already secured his party’s endorsement.
Louisiana holds nonpartisan open Primaries that put all candidates on the same ballot regardless of party affiliation. That means a candidate could win outright in the October 14 Primary if they receive more than 50% of the vote. That’s an unlikely scenario considering the number of candidates in the race, and means the most likely scenario is a General Election contest between Landry and Wilson on Nov. 18.
This isn’t the first time the RGA has attacked Wilson. The group launched an ad in June blasting Wilson’s infrastructure record, arguing the state’s infrastructure ranks 49th in the nation largely because Wilson failed to deliver “better roads and bridges.”
Another ad, which aired earlier this month, similarly attacked Wilson’s infrastructure record, noting an $18 billion backlog in necessary repairs.