David Duke will bank on racial tensions in Louisiana Senate bid

Former Ku Klux Klan leader and infamous hate-monger David Duke is officially a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana, qualifying Friday to join at least 24 other hopefuls to replace the outgoing Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBottom line The biggest political upsets of the decade Red-state governor races put both parties on edge MORE.

In my 40 years working in Louisiana politics, I have watched Duke rise from a fringe element promoting Nazi propaganda on campus at Louisiana State University to heading the National Association for the Advancement of White People. I have also watched him secure a seat in the Louisiana State House of Representatives and come within a few thousand votes of becoming governor in 1991. In his heyday, a decade or two ago, he was a political force to be reckoned with in this state. However, he is now a convicted felon and perennial candidate — and more importantly, an embarrassment with a national profile for the people of Louisiana.

Under normal circumstances, a candidate like Duke, with his shameful record of hate-mongering and losing to better, more mainstream opponents, wouldn’t stand a chance in this race. However, a closer look at the field of candidates and the current political climate quickly shows that these are far from normal circumstances.

As I mentioned, Duke has joined at least two dozen others in the fight for this open Senate seat. With Louisiana’s “jungle primary,” that means he’ll be on the same ballot as the rest of them in November, vying for the 20 percent or so needed to win a spot in the subsequent runoff come December. In other words, this will be largely decided by which candidates are able to capture the most media attention. Given the media’s fascination for this fire-breather, that means David Duke has a chance.

Looking at the field of candidates, it is clear that the Democratic side of the equation is less complicated than the Republican side, swarming with conservatives of various shades. The Democratic frontrunners are PublicService Commissioner Foster Campbell and unsuccessful but fairly well-known lieutenant governor candidate Caroline Fayard. On the Republican side, the right wing is jammed, with Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingThe Hill's Morning Report - Iran strikes US bases in Iraq; Trump to speak today In Australia's nightmare, a vision of the planet's future The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today MORE, retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness and state treasurer John Kennedy, all boasting their hard-right credentials, and Rep. Charles BoustanyCharles William BoustanyMarch tariff increase would cost 934K jobs, advocacy group says Bottom Line On The Money: US adds 155k jobs in November | Unemployment holds at 3.7 percent | Wage growth strengthening | Trump signs stopgap spending bill delaying shutdown MORE positioning himself as more of a moderate. Of course, in a field totaling 25 or more candidates, there are plenty of others in the race with little or no chance of success.

Normally, I would put Duke in this latter camp of hangers-on, but his announcement come on the heels of a tragedy that rocked Louisiana and heightened racial tensions across the state. The recent shooting death of Alton Sterling, a black man, by a white police officer and the later murder of three police officer by a black gunman are front and center in the minds of voters.

The last thing Louisiana needs is David Duke driving a bigger wedge in the already gaping racial divide.

However, this is the environment wherein Duke thrives. He has long been a subscriber to the idea that no serious crisis should be left to go to waste, an adage popularized by former Obama chief-of- staff Rahm Emanuel.

I fully expect him to exploit Louisiana’s open wounds in this election. He will use this crisis to step into his role again as a fire-breathing racist monster in search of attention and chaos.

But we can stop him.

News media, take heed: Don’t add fuel to the fire. The more you write about David Duke, the better his chances are of standing out in this crowded field. If he does, it’s on you -- and the people of Louisiana will be left to suffer. Quite simply, this guy is a nut and nothing more. Treat him like it.

Bergeron is a 40-year veteran of Louisiana politics and currently works as a political strategist and communications consultant. Visit his website: www.LAindependentrecord.com.




The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.