John Kennedy and Foster Campbell lead the field in the race to qualify for the U.S. Senate runoff less than three weeks before Election Day, an independent poll showed Thursday.
But the biggest news from the poll by Raycom Media may be that David Duke scored just high enough to qualify for the final televised debate during the Senate primary, to be held on Nov. 2 at Dillard University in New Orleans.
“That’s amazing,” Duke said when he learned that he will be invited to participate in the debate, which will be held at the historically black university. He said he planned to attend but expressed concerns about security.
“Dillard is pretty supportive of Black Lives Matter, and I’ve been pretty critical of them,” Duke said.
Vicki Zimmerman, the regional news director for Raycom, said she doesn’t expect Duke’s presence to cause security issues.
Kennedy, the Republican state treasurer, had 24.2 percent while Campbell, a Democratic member of the Public Service Commission, received 18.9 percent, in a poll taken for Raycom by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.
Essentially tied for third place at about 11 percent were Caroline Fayard, a Democratic attorney from New Orleans; U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, a Republican from Lafayette; and U.S. Rep. John Fleming, a Republican from the northwest Louisiana town of Minden.
Kennedy, who has run for office statewide seven times, winning five races to be treasurer, has generally been considered the front-runner.
In the Raycom poll, Kennedy and Campbell ran strongest in metro New Orleans while Boustany was most popular in Acadiana, his home region.
Those three, along with Fayard and Fleming, squared off Tuesday night at Louisiana Tech in the first statewide televised debate in the race.
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Not qualifying for that debate were Duke, retired Air Force colonel Rob Maness and the other 16 candidates running to be replace outgoing Sen. David Vitter.
The two top candidates in the Nov. 8 primary election, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the runoff, which will be held on Dec. 10. Early voting begins Tuesday and runs to the following Tuesday.
The Raycom poll was important not only to indicate who is poised to make the runoff but also to determine which candidates will qualify for the hour-long debate at Dillard. It will air on Raycom’s stations in Louisiana: WVUE in New Orleans, WAFB in Baton Rouge, KSLA in Shreveport and KPLC in Lake Charles.
Duke made the 5 percent debate cutoff, albeit barely with 5.1 percent, but Maness fell short with 3.4 percent.
The presence of Duke at a historically black university is likely to create a media show.
He was a grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klan in the 1970s, was elected in 1989 to a single term in the state House from Metairie and lost the governor’s race to Edwin Edwards in 1991 – an election that became front-page news around the world. In 2003, Duke was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for bilking his supporters and not paying taxes. He now lives in Mandeville.
During the Senate election, Duke, a 66-year-old Republican, has gotten coverage from national and international media outlets – given his notorious background and white supremacist views – but he has had scant presence during the overall campaign. He has not raised enough money yet to advertise on commercial television.
Duke has embraced Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, but Trump has disavowed him.
Mason-Dixon polled 625 registered voters over a three-day period beginning Monday. The survey has a plus or minus of 4 percent margin of error, meaning the actual results have a 95 percent certainty of falling within a 4 percent range up or down of the poll tally.
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