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La. Senate race gets even more crowded with David Duke entrance

25th July 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

When this newspaper went to press, an unprecedented 22 candidates lined up to fill the open U.S. Senate seat of the retiring David Vitter. With this many candidates, any combination in the December runoff could be possible—including two Democrats or two Republicans.

Of the major GOP candidates, sitting Congressmen Charles Boustany and John Fleming both qualified by Thursday, July 21st. As money is considered one of the key indicators of electability, Boustany had $1.08 million raised at the last reporting period, with $2.5 million cash-on-hand. Fleming nearly matches him, having raised $536,000 from donors, with $2.4 million fin his account (after making a sizable contribution from his own personal wealth). Both U.S. Reps. are physicians, from Lafayette and Minden respectively.

The massive surprise, of course, is that former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke opted to run on Friday, July 22. He has virtually nothing in his campaign account, but Duke has the potential to upend the race, drawing votes from both parties, and making prognostication all but impossible. Promising to represent “European Americans,” in a statement on his website, he seeks to draw the nativist undercurrent in Pelican State politics, and will likely attract voters who otherwise might not go to the polls.

Former New Orleans Republican Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao also formally qualified to run last week, but his campaign account is comparatively empty. Doing a little bit better is 2014 Republican Senate candidate Ret. Air Force Colonel Rob Maness with $163,000 raised in the last quarter, and $207,000 in total.

The GOP frontrunner, according to polls, State Treasurer John Kennedy raised $946,000 and reported $1.4 million in the bank upon jumping into the race last week. Moreover, for months Kennedy had been sitting on almost $3 millions in state campaign money that by state law he could not donate directly to his federal campaign.

Last week, spokesmen for the State Treasurer-turned-Senate candidate revealed Kennedy’s donated “a substantial amount” of his state campaign cash to ESAFund, a group formally known as Ending Spending Action Fund. Founded by GOP mega donor Joe Ricketts, Ending Spending played a major role in the 2014 elections in several key contests, and the SuperPAC is expected to spend on Kennedy’s behalf this Autumn.

Newcomer Abhay Patel, though unknown, also has to be considered as a serious Republican contender as he has $300,000 in the bank. In addition on the GOP side when The Louisiana Weekly went to press, Donald “Crawdaddy” Crawford of Covington and Charles Marsala of Metairie both signed up to run in the November 8th primary.

Qualifying last week also drew a crowd on the Democratic side. Of the major contenders jumping into the U.S. Senate race from Wednesday to Friday, PSC Commissioner Foster Campbell of Bossier City, Gov. Edwards’ chosen candidate, entered the contest with $868,000 cash-on-hand, $496,000 raised, $250,000 self-funded. Former Lt. Gubernatorial candidate Caroline Fayard of Baton Rouge brought in a total of $1,117,415.59 in receipts to-date in the latest fundraising report, with $273,000 in contributions in the last quarter and $634,000 remaining in the bank. Lafayette Energy Exec. Joshua Pellerin brought in $54,000 from donors, and had contributed $64,000 of his own money. He has pledged to self-finance in the million dollar range.

Of the minor Democratic contenders who qualified to run to succeed Vitter last week, perennial candidates Gary Landrieu of New Orleans and MV “Vinny” Mendoza of Ponchatoula. They were joined by two African-American Democratic newcomers, Derrick Edwards of Harvey and Peter Williams of Lettsworth.

One potential major Independent contender, former Democratic State Senator Troy Hebert, who has already purchased billboards across the state, also qualified last week. He was joined by African-American Libertarian Le Roy Gillam of Washington, LA and Caucasian Libertarian Thomas P. Clements of Lafayette. “Other” Party candidates included William Robert “Bob” Lang Jr. of Natchitoches, Kaitlin Marone of New Orleans, and Gregory Taylor Jr. of New Orleans, and Arden Wells of Ponchatoula.

This article originally published in the July 25, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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