Report: Sponsor bans audience for La. Senate debate with David Duke

Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke and five other Louisiana Senate candidates will debate in an empty auditorium, the Advocate in Baton Rouge is reporting.

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The newspaper said Raycom Media, the first televised debate’s sponsor, is excluding students, the general public and journalists from an auditorium on the campus of New Orleans's Dillard University, a historically black school. Protests against Duke by students and perhaps others are likely outside the event.

“We just elected to have a closed production,” said Vicki Zimmerman, Raycom’s regional news director.

“I’m not going to elaborate any further than I already did,” she added when asked if Duke’s participation prompted the decision.

The Advocate said the only spectators allowed during Wednesday night’s debate are production staff and five guests from each campaign. The contest is the last debate of Louisiana’s crowded “jungle primary” to replace outgoing Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBiden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status Bottom line Lysol, Charmin keep new consumer brand group lobbyist busy during pandemic MORE (R).

Duke, a Republican, qualified for the contest late last month by squeaking past the 5 percent threshold necessary for participation in a WAFB/Raycom Media poll.

The other candidates include State Treasurer John Kennedy (R), Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (D) and attorney Caroline Fayard (D). Two Louisiana House lawmakers, GOP Reps. Charles BoustanyCharles William BoustanyFormer lawmakers call on leadership to focus on unity Partial disengagement based on democratic characteristics: A new era of US-China economic relations Lobbying world MORE and John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingLobbying world Trump wants Congress to delay Census deadlines amid pandemic Meadows sets up coronavirus hotline for members of Congress MORE, are also participating.

In all, 24 candidates are vying to replace Vitter, who is stepping down in the wake of a prostitution scandal. The two top candidates on Nov. 8 will advance to a runoff vote scheduled for Dec. 10.

Duke attracted national headlines after endorsing GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Crenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Senate confirms Biden's nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection MORE earlier this year. Trump ultimately disavowed the white supremacist’s support after widespread backlash.