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U.S. Senate, House races will be decided in Louisiana runoff

Democrats face uphill climbs in 2 races; 2 Republicans face off in the other

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugNEW ORLEANS (CFP) — Voters in Louisiana will go to the polls one more time on December 10 to choose a new U.S. Senator and two members of the U.S. House for the northwestern and southwestern parts of the state, in the last federal elections of the 2016 cycle.

After the state’s all-party “jungle” primary on November 8, the Senate race features Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, pitting two of the state’s longest serving and best-known politicians against each other.

State Treasurer John Kennedy

State Treasurer John Kennedy

Kennedy came in first in the primary with 25 percent, with Campbell at 18 percent. Because Republicans have already secured their 51-seat Senate majority, the Louisiana runoff will not affect the balance of power.

Kennedy, 64, from Madisonville near New Orleans, has been Louisiana’s treasurer for nearly 17 years, winning statewide office five times. In 2004, he made an unsuccessful bid for the Senate as a Democrat and tried again in 2008, after switching parties and becoming a Republican. He lost to Democrat Mary Landrieu.

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell

Campbell, 69, from Elm Grove near Shreveport, has represented northwestern Louisiana on the Public Service Commission since 2003, a post he won after making three unsuccessful attempts to win a seat in the U.S. House. He also ran for governor in 2007, coming in fourth place in the primary.

The seat opened up after Republican  U.S. Senator David Vitter decided not to seek re-election and run instead for governor, a race he lost to Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. Given the Pelican State’s Republican tilt, Kennedy is considered the favorite in the race.

In addition to the Senate race, voters in the 3rd U.S. House District, which takes in southwestern Louisiana, and the 4th District, which takes in the northwest, will choose new congressmen.

In the 3rd District Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle from Breaux Bridge will face fellow Republican Clay Higgins, a former sheriff’s deputy from St. Landry Parish who became well known for tough-talking anti-crime videos that have gone viral on the Internet.

The seat opened when GOP U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany of Lafayette left to make an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate seat, finishing third, just behind Campbell.

In the 4th District, Republican State Rep. Mike Johnson of Bossier Parish will face Democrat Marshall Jones, an attorney from Shreveport, in the runoff, which will be the last House pickup opportunity for Democrats.

The seat opened when U.S. Rep. John Fleming of Minden also decided to run for the Senate, where he finished fifth. Republicans have held this seat since 1988, making Johnson a prohibitive favorite.

With David Duke in the hall, turmoil erupts at Louisiana U.S. Senate debate

Protestors spar with police as Duke screams at the moderator, calls for Hillary Clinton to get the electric chair

louisiana mugNEW ORLEANS (CFP) — David Duke’s appearance at a November 2 U.S. Senate debate in Louisiana descended into turmoil, with the white racist screaming at the moderator and calling for Hillary Clinton’s execution, while police used pepper spray on angry protestors trying to get into the hall.

Protestors march against David Duke at Dillard University. (Courtesy: Twitter)

Protestors march against David Duke at Dillard University. (Courtesy: Twitter)

The sponsor of the debate, Raycom Media, which operates television states in four Louisiana cities, decided not to allow the public into the debate, leaving the six candidates on the stage talking to a television camera and a largely empty auditorium at Dillard University in New Orleans.

That didn’t sit well with protestors outside, who were angered by Duke’s presence at the historically black university and tried to force their way through a police cordon at the doorway. Six people were arrested, only one of which was a Dillard student, according to the university.

The specter of Duke was inescapable inside as well as outside the hall, with the moderator, John Snell, struggling mightily at times to prevent his presence from overwhelming the discussion.

Answering a question about Obamacare, Democrat Caroline Fayard pivoted to a direct attack on Duke.

“This snake has slithered out of the swamp, probably because the career politicians on this stage haven’t done their job effectively enough,” Fayard said. “But I’m here to tell … everybody who cares about the future of Louisiana that on November 8, the voters of Louisiana are going to join with me and cut the head off his hatred, once and for all.”

At another point, State Treasurer John Kennedy, a Republican who is leading the polls in the race, called Duke “a convicted liar,” a reference to his 2002 conviction for tax and mail fraud.

“He spent time in prison for lying to his supporters. He swindled them out of their money and took that money and used it for his gambling addiction,” Kennedy said.

Snell gave Duke 15 seconds to respond, and, when he tried to go over his allotted time, the fireworks began.

“You’re not a moderator. You’re a typical media hack,” Duke shouted, as Snell tried to go on to the next speaker. “You’re gonna silence me now? You’re going to silence me?”

Later in the debate, Snell asked Duke what he meant by repeated references to “CNN Jews” in his earlier complaints about the media’s coverage of Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood tape.

“There is a problem in America with a very strong, powerful, tribal group that dominates our media and dominates out international banking,” Duke said. “I’m not opposed to all Jews … I’m against Jews or anybody else that puts the interest of some other place, or another country, over our own country.”

He then pivoted to a criticism of American foreign policy in general — and Clinton’s role in it in particular.

“The lady should be getting the electric chair, being charged with treason,” he said.

Duke has been an outspoken supporter of Trump. During the debate, he said, “I will be Donald Trump’s most loyal advocate to make sure his nominees go to the Supreme Court.”

Duke was also the subject of a testy change between the two Democrats on the stage, Fayard and Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, over an ad her campaign has run insinuating that Campbell has been friendly with Duke on the campaign trail.

“There’s no context in which it is acceptable to have a conversation, whether public or private, with someone like David Duke,” said Fayard, who insisted her ad was accurate.

But Campbell said the insinuation that he has been cozy with Duke not was “not just a lie, it’s a damn lie.”

“I have nothing in common with David Duke other that that we’re probably breathing,” Campbell said.

After the debate, Dillard issued a statement saying police used pepper spray as a “last resort” after protestors tried to enter the building. However, peaceful protests outside the hall were not impeded.

“At no time did Dillard discourage protests; either by students or members of the community. We shared a dual responsibility of providing a safe space for those protesters and for the orderly management of the event,” the statement said.

Raycom contracted with Dillard to host the debate before it knew Duke would qualify for the event. The university decided to go ahead and honor the contract, despite criticism from students and alumni unhappy about the prospect of Duke appearing at Dillard.

Of the 24 candidates running for the Pelican State’s open U.S. Senate seat, six qualified for the debate based on their support in a poll commissioned by Raycom — Kennedy, Campbell, Fayard, Duke, and U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany of Layfayette and John Fleming of Minden.

In Louisiana, all candidates regardless of party run in a “jungle” primary on November 8, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a December 10 runoff.

Polls show Kennedy and Campbell leading the race, which was apparent in the debate, with Boustany and Fleming taking aim at Kennedy and Fayard primarily targeting Campbell.

Here is the video of the debate:

Racist David Duke qualifies for Louisiana U.S. Senate debate

Debate on November 2 will take place at historically black Dillard University

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugNEW ORLEANS (CFP) — Racist David Duke will take the stage at an historically black university on November 2 to debate with five other Louisiana U.S. Senate candidates, after scoring high enough in a poll to qualify for the event.

State Treasurer John Kennedy

State Treasurer John Kennedy

The poll, commissioned by debate Raycom Media, showed Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell leading a crowded field of 24 candidates vying for the the open Senate seat in the Pelican State’s all-party “jungle” primary.

The top two vote-getters on November 8, regardless of party, will advance to a December 10 runoff.

Duke came in at 5.1 percent in the poll commissioned by Raycom, the sponsor of the debate at Dillard University in New Orleans, which was just above the 5 percent threshold set for candidates to qualify. Raycom confirmed to the Baton Rouge Advocate that, based on those poll results, it would invite Duke to the debate.

Raycom, based in Montgomery, Alabama, plans to air the debate on its television stations in Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport.

Duke celebrated the news in a Tweet, in which he said, “I can’t wait to tell truth nobody else dares!”

Dillard, which rented space for the event to Raycom’s station in New Orleans, WVUE, said in a statement that the university “will work with WVUE to ensure that the event is secure and managed professionally, as it does with every event that occurs on our campus.”

The statement also said that WVUE is the “sole sponsor” of the event and that Dillard “does not endorse the candidacy of any of the candidates who will appear at this debate.”

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell

The poll found Kennedy at 24 percent, followed by Campbell at 19 percent. Three candidates were in a statistical tie for third place: Democrat Caroline Fayard, a New Orleans lawyer (12 percent), and two sitting GOP U.S. House members, Charles Boustany of Layfayette (11 percent) and John Fleming of Minden (10 percent).

Among those not making the 5-percent cut were Joseph Cao, a Vietnamese-American Republican who represented the New Orleans area in Congress from 2009 to 2011, and Rob Maness, who made a spirited but unsuccessful Tea Party-backed bid for the Senate in 2014.

The seat is being vacated by Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter, who gave up his Senate seat to make an unsuccessful run for governor in 2015.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu loses re-election bid in Louisiana

Former Governor Edwin Edwards’s comeback bid also falls short

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugNEW ORLEANS (CFP) — Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu has failed in her bid for a fourth term, losing to GOP U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy in Louisiana’s December 6 runoff.

Cassidy took 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Landrieu. Her defeat means that Republicans have taken away four Southern Senate seats this year, en route to winning a 54-46 majority.

Meanwhile, former Democratic Governor Edwin Edwards, who served eight years in federal prison on corruption charges, failed in his bid to make a political comeback, losing a runoff for the state’s 6th District U.S. House seat.

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy

Speaking to supporters at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baton Rouge, Cassidy, 57, called the runoff result the “exclamation point” on the message voters sent to Washington in November.

“This victory happened because people in Louisiana voted for a government which serves us but does not tell us what to do,” he said. “We want our country to go in a conservative direction.”

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

Speaking to supporters at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, Landrieu, 59, who has been on the state’s political stage since 1979, thanked them for helping her fight “for the right things for Louisiana.”

“The people of our state have spoken, and while we were working and hoping and praying for a different outcome, I’m so proud that our campaign was open and accessible to voters,” she said.

Landrieu also defended her vote in favor of Obamacare, a central criticism of Cassidy’s campaign, saying it has given people security in knowing that they will have access to health care.

“This is something to be proud of, and I’m glad we fought for it,” she said.

Landrieu narrowly won the state’s “jungle” primary in November. But in the month since, polls consistently showed the Republican vote coalescing around Cassidy, a doctor who represents the Baton Rouge area in the U.S. House.

Another factor dragging down Landrieu’s fortunes was President Barack Obama’s anemic approval ratings in Pelican State, which are below 40 percent and more than 20 points under water.

The Landrieu family has been prominent in Louisiana Democratic politics since the 1960s. Mary Landrieu’s father, Moon, was mayor of New Orleans, a position her brother, Mitch, currently holds.

Former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards

Former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards

In the 6th District, Edwards was beaten badly by Republican Garret Graves, the former chairman of the state’s coastal protection authority, mustering just 38 percent to Graves’s 62 percent.

Edwards, 87, finished first in the “jungle” primary with 30 percent of the vote in a crowded field that included two fellow Democrats and eight Republicans. But the district, which takes in much of the southeastern part of the state including most of Baton Rouge, is strongly Republican, which made Graves a prohibitive favorite.

Still, even getting into the runoff was a political triumph for the colorful octogenarian, who starred in a television reality show in 2013 with his third wife, Trina, who is 51 years his junior.

Edwards served a record four terms as Louisiana’s governor between 1972 and 1996. In 1991, after being acquitted of federal corruption charges, he won a runoff against white supremacist David Duke. During that campaign, a popular bumper sticker urged Louisianians to “Vote For the Crook. It’s Important.”

In 2001, Edwards was convicted on 17 counts of bribery, extortion, fraud and racketeering stemming from his last terms as governor. He served eight years in prison.

As a convicted felon, Edwards is barred from seeking state office. But there is no prohibition on convicted felons seeking federal office.

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