Republicans sweep the last three federal elections of the 2016 cycle
♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor
BATON ROUGE (CFP) — The third time was the charm for State Treasurer John Kennedy, who has captured a U.S. Senate seat from Louisiana on his third attempt for the office.
Kennedy, a Republican, easily swept aside Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell in the December 10 runoff, winning by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent.
In the night’s only upset, voters in the 3rd U.S. House District went for a tough-talking former deputy sheriff, Clay Higgins,, who has been dubbed the “Cajun John Wayne” for anti-crime videos that have gone viral on the Internet. He beat Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, a veteran politician with a long pedigree.
The Senate race pitted two of the state’s best known and longest-serving politicians. Kennedy has been treasurer since 2000, while Campbell has served on the PSC since 2003.
Kennedy, 64, from Madisonville, won on this third try for the Senate, having lost as a Democrat in 2004 and as a Republican in 2008 after switching parties in 2007.
Despite his long service in state office, Kennedy positioned himself as a political outsider ready to take on Washington.
“This campaign was about change versus status quo,” Kennedy said in his victory speech at a Baton Rouge hotel. “I believe that our future can be better than our present or our past, but not if we keep going in the direction that the Washington insiders have taken us for the past eight years.”
Campbell, 69, from Elm Grove, is also no stranger to losing campaigns, having lost three times for the U.S. House and once for governor. He faced an uphill battle in trying to win a Senate seat in a state that Donald Trump carried by nearly 20 points.
After Trump’s victory, donations to Campbell’s campaign poured in from around the country, pumping more than $2 million into his runoff effort. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.
“We worked as hard as possible. We left no stone unturned,” Campbell told supporters during a concession speech in downtown Baton Rouge. “We knew going in that this race was going to be tough.”
The Senate seat opened up after Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter decided to give it up to make an unsuccessful run for governor last year.
Kennedy’s win means Republicans will have 52 Senate seats, with 46 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. Of the 28 Senate seats from the 14 Southern states, Republicans hold 24, with only four Democrats.
Runoffs were also held for two of Louisiana’s six U.S. House seats, which opened up when the incumbents made bids for the U.S. Senate. Republicans kept both seats.
Celebrity trumped resume in the 3rd District, which takes in the Acadiana region of southwestern Louisiana.
Higgins, a former deputy sheriff in St. Landry Parish whose tough-talking Crime Stoppers videos became an Internet sensation, easily defeated Angelle, who has served for nearly 30 years in elected or appointed office, including a brief stint as lieutenant governor.
The margin was 56 percent to 44 percent. This was a Republican-versus-Republican runoff, as no Democrat survived the all-party jungle primary on November 8.
Bad blood left over from the 2015 governor’s race may have also played a role in Higgins’s victory. Angelle came in third in that race, behind Vitter and the eventual winner, Democrat John Bel Edwards, but refused to endorse Vitter in the runoff. That angered Republican leaders, some of whom worked on Higgins’s behalf.
In the 4th District, which takes in the northwestern Louisiana, State Rep. Mike Johnson, from Bossier Parish defeated Democrat Marshall Jones, an attorney from Shreveport, by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent.
With the victories by Angelle and Johnson, Republicans will maintain their 5-to-1 advantage in the state’s House delegation.
Across the South, Republicans hold 114 U.S. House seats to 40 for Democrats.