U.S. Senate race heads to runoff

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BATON ROUGE — Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race will be decided in a December runoff between Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, the top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s election.

Two dozen contenders sought the open seat, with all candidates regardless of party running against each other. Kennedy headed into the Dec. 10 runoff election as the front-runner, a status he maintained the entire race.
“I’m so thankful to the voters in Louisiana. I’m honored to have their support, and we will be back at work first thing in the morning,” Kennedy said in a statement.

Campbell immediately drew policy distinctions with — and slammed — his runoff competitor. He described himself as a “voice for the people, not the powerful.”

“The difference between me and John Kennedy is simple: I have courage, integrity, compassion, and loyalty. The stuff that actually matters,” he said in a statement.

Campbell, a state utility regulator and former state senator, narrowly edged out Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany to reach the runoff. Democratic lawyer Caroline Fayard and Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming also were defeated in their bids for the runoff.

White supremacist David Duke ran for the seat as a Republican, but lost his attempt to return to elected office. The former Ku Klux Klan leader, who was a state representative more than 20 years ago, lagged in seventh place.

Beyond the Senate race, six U.S. House seats also were on the ballot, including two that were wide open because Boustany and Fleming ran for a promotion to the Senate.

Republican incumbents Steve Scalise in the 1st District, Ralph Abraham in the 5th District and Garret Graves in the 6th District easily won new terms, with their opponents doing little public campaigning or fundraising for the races. Democratic U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond was re-elected to his 2nd Congressional District seat, defeating Democrat Kip Holden, the mayor of Baton Rouge, and other opponents to return to Washington.

More than $14 million has been spent by Senate candidates ahead of the election, often on attacks traded by candidates trying to edge their opponents out of runoff contention.

Boustany was hit with allegations he was a client of prostitutes who were later killed, claims made in a book whose author and publisher the congressman has sued for slander. Kennedy was accused of promoting suicide because of his catchphrase that he’d “rather drink weed killer” than be a political insider or support the federal health overhaul. The treasurer also was criticized as a political opportunist because he has run for the Senate twice before, once as a liberal Democrat and more recently as a Republican.

In the final days of the race, Fayard sought to tie Campbell to Duke by showing him in a photo shaking hands with the white supremacist and in an ad that takes one of Campbell’s quotes out of context. African-American supporters of Campbell trashed Fayard for the move, and Campbell accused her of race-baiting. He hit Fayard for her work on Wall Street and accused her of trying to buy a Senate seat with her personal wealth.

Jimmy Holmes, 52, voted for Kennedy, citing his willingness to call out other politicians.

“When he’s been treasurer he just seemed to come up with some common sense stuff critical of both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats. He called out (Republican former Gov. Bobby) Jindal when Jindal was being an idiot, and he was no particular friend to Democrats,” Holmes said at the Metairie school where he cast his ballot.

Garrett Deschamp, a 23-year-old who described himself as an independent, was turned off by Fayard’s attempts to tie
Campbell to Duke. Deschamp said he voted for Campbell.

“He’s funny. He’s brutally honest,” Deschamp said.

The seat is open because Republican David Vitter isn’t running for re-election.

Two other U.S. House seats — representing Louisiana’s 3rd and 4th Districts — were teeming with competitors because their GOP incumbents are vacating them, and they’ll head to runoffs.

Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, the Republican third-place finisher in last year’s governor’s race, easily reached the runoff for the 3rd District seat representing southwest and south central Louisiana. He’ll face former sheriff’s Capt. Clay Higgins, dubbed the “Cajun John Wayne,” in the Dec. 10 election. The two men bested 10 other candidates.

In the northwest Louisiana-based 4th District, Shreveport lawyer Marshall Jones and Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson will face off in the runoff, the top two vote-getters of eight contenders.

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