The longest campaign cycle just won’t end.
Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy are facing off in the race for Louisiana’s U.S. Senate seat next month, after none of the 23 candidates who ran won a majority of the vote.
The outcome of the race could have far-reaching implications in Washington. If Campbell somehow manages to pull off a victory in deep red Louisiana, Republicans will maintain control of the upper chamber by a razor thin margin of 51-49. Denying the GOP one additional vote could create headaches for President-elect Donald Trump and his ability to push through his agenda in Congress. It could also threaten some of his more controversial Cabinet appointments, which are subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Several moderate-minded GOP senators, including Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona, have already indicated their willingness to buck the president-elect on certain issues.
Democrats may want to temper their expectations about the race, however. According to a poll conducted Friday by Trafalgar Group, a GOP polling firm, 48 percent of respondents support Kennedy while an additional 10 percent lean in his favor. Campbell is supported by only 27 percent of respondents in the poll, with 8 percent leaning in his favor.
Kennedy also entered the last stage of the campaign with more money in the bank. According to the most recent campaign finance report filed in late October, he had $856,011 cash on hand. Campbell had $311,052.
A Democrat won statewide office in the Bayou State as recently as 2015, when state Rep. John Bel Edwards pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Louisiana political history by defeating Sen. David Vitter, (R-La.) in the race for governor. The outcome may have hinged more on Vitter’s baggage, however, including his involvement in the 2007 “D.C. Madam” scandal, and former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s deep unpopularity across the state.
Another factor in the race may be Trump, who carried the state by 20 points on Nov. 8. Kennedy aired a campaign ad over the weekend touting his support for the president-elect “from day one.” He also echoed one of the Manhattan real estate mogul’s favorite campaign lines, affirming that the “swamp in Washington D.C. has to be drained” of lobbyists and special interests.
Campbell played up the stakes of the race following Election Day, positioning himself as an anti-Wall Street populist who could cast the “deciding vote” against Republican attempts to cut entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. He also attacked Kennedy over his association with Vitter, after he once described the two men as “kindred spirits.”
“His record is representing the haves, I’ve represented the have-nots,” Campbell said during an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow over the weekend. “There’s an old verse, what you do for the least of these, you do for me. That’s my motto. I’m for businesses, doing right, but not for being greedy.”
Campbell and Kennedy are expected to face off during a debate early next month. The runoff is scheduled for Dec. 10.