While most of the political dust has settled in the weeks since the election, one unresolved aspect of this country’s biyearly democratic tradition still continues in the Bayou State. The race for Louisiana’s open Senate seat has come down to Republican State Treasurer, John Neely Kennedy and Democrat Public Service Commissioner, Foster Campbell. While in past years Democrats in statewide elections in Louisiana have been written off as a lost cause, John Bel Edwards upset in the Governor’s race last year provides a glimmer of hope for liberals in the deep south.
Louisiana holds their elections in a somewhat unconventional manner. Instead of holding party primaries in the months before the early-November election, they hold a nonpartisan primary including every candidate of every party on the day most other states are holding their actual elections. The top two vote-getters in this primary face off head-to-head in an election the following month (a system similar to this one in California led to two Democrats, Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez, running against one another for the seat).
On December 10, the two candidates will face off to replace two term Senator, David Vitter, a Republican who decided to retire after losing a race for governor last year. Campbell’s chances in this deep red seat are seen by most political operatives as a long shot. Trump won the state by a comfortable 20-point margin. Also, Kennedy won the primary with a quarter of the votes, seven points higher than the next-closest candidate. On the other hand, Campbell’s folksy populism has done well in Louisiana in recent years and citizens of the state generally have a positive opinion of him. Trump’s win and the Democrat’s failure to win back the Senate have raised his profile as a last bastion of liberal hope in an unsuccessful election year, attracting over a million dollars in donations and galvanizing volunteer support.
Although this race will not affect the majority in the Senate, as the GOP already has 51 seats as well as the Vice Presidency, it will have important ramifications in the margin of error for the GOP in reaching a majority and in their ability to achieve cloture (60 votes) in order to break an oppositional filibuster.
According to The Hill, a late November poll showed Kennedy with a 52 to 38 percent lead over Campbell. The National Republican Senatorial Committee had opened 10 field offices by last month, while the national Democratic groups have opened none. Both candidates have Super PACs flooding the state with ads, as Kennedy tries to maintain his lead and Campbell tries to pick up votes and close in on his opponent. Although Kennedy has a huge lead, with over 10 percent of the voting population unsure of who they will vote for, a lot could still change in this election.