A week after Election Day, a seat is still open in the United States Senate. It’s in Louisiana, and the winner could make the Senate even more conservative — or give Democrats a symbolically meaningful win.
Instead of a standard general election system, Louisiana uses a “blanket primary,” also known as a “jungle primary.” All candidates compete against one another, regardless of political party. In 2016, that put 24 candidates against one another for Republican David Vitter’s spot in the U.S. Senate, including a former head of the Ku Klux Klan and a stand-up comedian. Two candidates advanced from the “jungle primary” and, after a debate on December 2, will compete in a runoff election on December 10 — Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy and Democrat Foster Campbell.
Campbell served in the Louisiana State Senate for seven consecutive terms. In his time in office, he helped waive utility fees for women fleeing from domestic violence (Louisiana is one of the country’s worst states in terms of domestic homicide and gender-based violence rates). After Hurricane Katrina, Campbell obtained nearly $40 million of funds from the federal government for telecommunications assistance, which helped residents obtain cell phones and funded other services to keep evacuees connected. It’s not altogether impossible for Democrats to win in Louisiana — the state already elected a Democratic governor in 2015 — and if Campbell wins a seat in the U.S. Senate, Republicans would hold a 51-49 lead, rather than a 52-48 majority. No wonder Democrats nationwide are signing up to phone bank for Campbell’s run in December.
Kennedy, who previously ran for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 2004, became a Republican in 2007 and ran for the same position as such in 2008. He charmingly said that he’d rather drink weed killer than support the Affordable Care Act. He is currently the state’s treasurer, but his Senate run is getting widespread support from Republican operatives nationwide, who want to assure the GOP has maximum strength in the Senate in 2017.
In a Trumpian wave election, Campbell’s outlook doesn’t look great. Or, in Jeffrey Blehar’s words, there is “not a chance in one billion years” Campbell will win. Blehar, an attorney, writer, and member of Decision Desk HQ, a nonpartisan volunteer-based election-reporting group, told MTV News that Republicans dramatically outpaced Democrats in the jungle primary, capturing 75 percent of the total vote. Trump won 58.1 percent of the vote in Louisiana last Tuesday.
“It’s Louisiana in the Trump era,” Blehar summarized of the race. “It ain’t happening.”
But for Democrats, Campbell’s run isn’t about 2016. It’s about 2018 and 2020, and about the 831,503 Louisianans — and the more than 60 million Americans — who didn’t vote for Donald Trump. Foster Campbell isn’t the end of the battle. He’s just the start of the war.