Embattled Louisiana Republican Party chairman keeps his job

Louis Gurvich wins a close election to remain leader of the state GOP

By: - January 15, 2022 12:15 pm
Republican Party elephant

Louis Gurvich, The embattled Louisiana Republican Party chairman won a party election Saturday to keep his job in spite of allegations that he has mismanaged the party’s finances and mistreated state party staff. 

The embattled chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana won a party election Saturday to keep his job in spite of allegations that he has mismanaged the party’s finances and mistreated state party staff. 

The Louisiana Republican State Central Committee cast 101 votes for Louis Gurvich and 90 votes for Michael Bayham, the party’s former secretary, according to party vote counters.

Several Republican officials expressed concern the state GOP spent more money than it raised last year and only had $6,400 in the bank at the end of 2021.  The state Republican Party is also carrying debt. It has a $5,000 outstanding credit card balance and $38,000 in “other debts” including attorneys’ fees and charges related to an audit, party officials announced at the meeting.

In the hours before Saturday’s election, new allegations also emerged that Gurvich had yelled at and mistreated a staff member for the state GOP. Since Gurvich took over, the state Republican Party has had four different executive directors in four years. The party has no full-time executive director currently. 

“No one wants to contribute to the party because it’s not run properly,” Rispone said Saturday.

– Eddie Rispone, Republican mega-donor and former gubernatorial candidate

Gurvich denied the allegations against him. In a speech Saturday, he said the party’s financial problems preceded his election as chairman in 2018 and that Republicans had conducted robust fundraising over the past two months.

The party raised approximately $25,000 in the first half of January alone and has commitments for more support already, GOP officials said. Gurvich attributed last year’s lean fundraising numbers to the fact that it was an off-year for elections.

Gurvich did not directly address publicly the allegations that he had mistreated a former party employee, though he compared himself to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a conservative who was outraged when he found himself accused of sexual assault.

“I’m certainly not perfect, but the allegations are completely ridiculous,” Gurvich said. “I’m happy to have the confidence of the (state party) members.”

Several top Republican elected officials and donors in the state are frustrated with Gurvich’s leadership. Eddie Rispone, a former gubernatorial candidate and Republican mega-donor, has openly criticized the party’s leadership on several occasions.

“No one wants to contribute to the party because it’s not run properly,” Rispone said Saturday in an interview.

Rispone said he doesn’t understand why the Louisiana Republican Party struggles every year to raise a few hundred thousand dollars when its peer organization in Mississippi  has an annual operating budget of $1.4 million. 

“We are absolutely broke,” Rispone said. “(The Louisiana Republican Party) should have six months of reserves.”

State lawmakers said the party needs to be more transparent about its finances. It spends about $6,000 per month on a consulting contract with Republican political operative Rhett Davis, an expense that some GOP officials described as “vague.” Gurvich said the state party is saving money by not employing a full-time executive director and using Davis’ expertise instead.

Senate President Pro Tempore Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton,  implored the party to be more transparent and add more details to its financial statements.

“Why don’t we just stand up and say what we are doing?” Mizell asked Republican officials Saturday. “I’d like you all to have the attitude that you want us to know what’s going on, instead of thinking: ‘We’ve told you enough.'”

“We just need a lot better breakdown (of the party’s finances),” Sen. Mike Fesi, R-Houma, said at the meeting.

The only people who can vote in the state Republican Party leadership elections are the 230 members of the Republican State Central Committee, who party members choose through elections. So far, Rispone and others who criticize Gurvich haven’t been able to unseat him, though Saturday’s election was closer than one held to oust Gurvich last year. 

In 2021, Gurvich easily beat state Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, to remain party chairman, though there was confusion about whether that election was run properly.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for six years. She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.

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