Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell were the top two vote-getters in Tuesday's election, edging out two GOP congressmen who gave up their U.S. House seats in the hopes of getting a promotion.
As soon as the runoff contenders were settled, the attacks began.
Republican Party of Louisiana Chairman Roger Villere urged voters in a statement to "reject the tired old liberal voice of (Gov.) John Bel Edwards' hand-picked candidate, Foster Campbell," referencing the governor's support of his fellow Democrat.
Campbell struck at Kennedy himself.
"The difference between me and John Kennedy is simple: I have courage, integrity, compassion, and loyalty. The stuff that actually matters," Campbell, a state utility regulator, said in a statement.Two dozen contenders sought the open seat, with all candidates regardless of party running against each other. Edged out of the runoff were Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, Democratic lawyer Caroline Fayard and Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming.
White supremacist David Duke ran for the seat as a Republican, but lost his attempt to return to elected office, reaching seventh place.The Senate seat is open because Republican David Vitter isn't running for re-election. More than $14 million already has been spent by Senate candidates, in an attack-heavy primary that saw Republicans and Democrats sparring within their own parties.
Kennedy was criticized as a political opportunist because he has run for the Senate twice before, once as a liberal Democrat and more recently as a Republican.
Jimmy Holmes, 52, voted for Kennedy, citing his willingness to call out other politicians.
"When he's been treasurer he just seemed to come up with some common sense stuff critical of both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats. He called out (Republican former Gov. Bobby) Jindal when Jindal was being an idiot, and he was no particular friend to Democrats," Holmes said at the Metairie school where he cast his ballot.In one of the more bitter exchanges of the primary, Fayard sought to tie Campbell to Duke by showing him in a photo shaking hands with the white supremacist and in an ad that takes one of Campbell's quotes out of context.
Kwame Asante, a 45-year-old attorney in Baton Rouge, said the Duke ads "turned me off." He voted for Campbell.
"He demonstrated an extreme care for the African-American community," Asante said. "He demonstrated that he was dedicated to working for all the people."
The chair of Louisiana's Democratic Party acknowledged the divisions in the party after the competition between Fayard and Campbell. In a statement Tuesday night, she said it was time to move on.
"While we had a very spirited race, and regretfully some hurtful things were said, we as a party must unite. We will do everything in our power to unify and support Commissioner Campbell," Peterson said.