BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - John Kennedy, Louisiana's well-known and popular state treasurer, on Tuesday became the latest Republican to enter the U.S. Senate race, playing up his outsider status and saying, "I want my country back."
Kennedy, a statewide elected official for 16 years, announced his campaign in a statement noting as a point of pride that he's often been at odds with Louisiana's elected officials, even those in his own party.
"Some politicians call me a troublemaker, a misfit, a rebel, a square peg in a round hole, because I'm not part of the club. I think I make the right people mad. My job is to protect taxpayers, not seek the approval of my political peers," he said. "I hope voters will give me a chance to do the same thing in the United States Senate."
Recently elected to his fifth term as Louisiana's top money manager, Kennedy becomes a significant contender in the Nov. 8 election to fill the seat being vacated by GOP incumbent David Vitter. Kennedy has shown prodigious fundraising ability and has high approval ratings.
The treasurer joins two announced Republican candidates, U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany and John Fleming. At least one other GOP contender, retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, has filed his federal election paperwork for the race and is scheduled to make his announcement Wednesday. Maness ran unsuccessfully for the Senate last year.
Several other Republicans are also eyeing the race.
Kennedy reported $2.8 million in his state campaign account in his most recent fundraising report, more money than Boustany and Fleming have reported. The treasurer can't shift those dollars to a federal race, but he can donate the money to a super PAC created to promote his candidacy.
It will be Kennedy's third run for Congress. He's unsuccessfully tried twice to win a Senate seat: in 2004 as a Democrat and in 2008 as a Republican.
Since that last failed Senate bid, Kennedy has raised his public profile. He positioned himself as a fiscal conservative, regularly criticizing the financial policies of Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal and traveling Louisiana to speak about state budget problems.
In his Senate announcement, Kennedy said the middle class is being squeezed by too many wealthy people "getting bailouts" and too many poor people "getting handouts." He said the United States has wasted too many taxpayer dollars and amassed too much debt.
"I want my country back. I'm scared we are losing it," Kennedy said.
He added: "The sad truth is that our children's generation is at risk of becoming the first in America to be worse off than their parents', because it's harder than ever to get ahead and easier than ever to do nothing."
Vitter decided against seeking a third term after losing the Louisiana governor's race.
Democratic candidates have been slower to emerge. Democrats considering the race include Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, state Sen. Eric LaFleur and Caroline Fayard, a lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2010.