Trump’s rise has paved the way for David Duke in Bayou Senate race
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Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE is sure to win Louisiana on Election Day. He might not win in states that will decide the election, like North Carolina and Nevada, but his success here has injected a measure of racially charged rhetoric and opened the door for a far more deplorable candidate to emerge in our wild and wooly Senate race, where a mind-boggling 24 candidates are competing to replace the retiring 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.

On Wednesday, the top six of these two dozen hopefuls will face off in the second and final televised debate before Election Day. And though the first debate was generally regarded as rather boring, this one is guaranteed to be an affair to remember. 

Why? David Duke.

Duke failed to qualify for the first debate. However, it was announced last week that the former KKK leader and serial bigot had polled well enough to earn a spot on the mainstage at this event — one hosted, interestingly enough, at Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans.

In recent weeks, Duke’s campaign has picked up some worrisome momentum, as he has frantically tried to tie his candidacy to Trump’s popular appeal with a series of robocalls and direct mail pieces. He still does not have a viable path to victory, but his mere presence has made him relevant enough for one desperate campaign to make him the subject of an extremely controversial television commercial that has been called out by one national fact-checker as the “scummy ad of the year.”

The spot focuses on Democratic front-runner Foster Campbell, accusing him of working alongside Duke on legislation in the Statehouse and agreeing with him on several issues. It’s the product of a failed insurgent campaign for Caroline Fayard, an attorney and one-time candidate for lieutenant governor, and the ad reeks of shameless desperation.

In reality, Campbell, a former state senator and current public service commissioner, never worked with Duke on a single bill. The bills referred to in the now-infamous spot were authored by other legislators, including one of Fayard’s staunchest supporters and Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu, and dealt with issues like naming bridges, creating drug-free zones and ensuring benefits for teachers and retirees.

I don’t expect Fayard’s outrageous attack will have much of an effect on this race. As a 40-year veteran of Louisiana politics, I can say without equivocation that any suggestion Foster Campbell is supporter of David Duke or a bigot of his ilk is bullshit and should be treated such. I also know that Campbell has built the diverse coalition of support needed to emerge as the top Democrat next week’s “jungle primary,” earning endorsements from labor groups and Gov. John Bel Edwards, the state’s only statewide Democratic elected official, as well as the majority of black political leadership.

As for Duke, I expect he take full advantage of the opportunity to spew his hate before a statewide audience Wednesday. He might snag a few votes from the more conservative front-runners in the race, state treasurer John Kennedy and Congressman John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingLobbying world Trump wants Congress to delay Census deadlines amid pandemic Meadows sets up coronavirus hotline for members of Congress MORE, which could help the more moderate Republican Congressman 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.

Regardless, I’ll be watching how the moderators and the candidates involved with the “scummy” ad treat Duke on Wednesday. Drawn to the race by the acrimony surrounding a high-profile, racially-charged police shooting in July and spurred on by Donald Trump’s campaign of dog-whistle politics, this serial bigot has once again emerged as a reminder of the hate-filled politics of Louisiana’s past — and I hope next Tuesday will be his political obituary.

Bergeron is a 40-year veteran of Louisiana politics and currently works as a political strategist and communications consultant.

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