Fearing that people were underestimating David Duke’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate, a 25-year-old political action committee rebooted to aggressively challenge the white supremacist in this fall’s election.

“You have to take David Duke seriously,” said Lawrence Powell, a retired Tulane University scholar who is the last of the founders of the Louisiana Coalition against Racism and Nazism that formed in 1991 and is chairman of the 2.0 version of the group that reorganized earlier this month.

The Coalition’s Advisory Committee includes prominent Republicans like former US Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, of Mississippi, former Gov. Buddy Roemer and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell D. Normand as well as former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, retired U.S. Sens. John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston, all Democrats.

Responding to the group restarting, Duke's campaign coordinator, Mike Lawrence said Wednesday: "This geriatric bunch of stooges are nothing more than a bunch of political cockroaches starved for attention."

After being surprised when Duke qualified to run on July 22 as a Republican from Mandeville, some of the members of old coalition began reinvigorating the organization. They agreed that given the tenor of present-day politics, Duke’s candidacy could nudge the white nationalist political movement into the mainstream debate.

“He’s been testing the political waters and searching for a beach head,” Powell said Wednesday.

Duke led a nonviolent faction of the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1970s, was shown in photographs wearing a Nazi uniform and celebrating Adolph Hitler’s birthday, and has authored books criticizing what he calls a supremacist element in Judaism. He is campaigning for the U.S. Senate as an advocate for European-American Christians and has criticized illegal immigration, gun control, high taxes and the Black Lives Matter organization.

Since the early 1990s when Duke ran strong races for governor and the U.S. Senate, he has been convicted and served a prison sentence for tax evasion. He also has made poor showings in several bids for elective office.

Still, Duke’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate attracted a lot of attention that members of the group found worrisome.

“He’s the ultimate click-bait for the media,” Powell said.

Duke’s late entry into the contest to succeed Sen. David Vitter captured international attention in late July. Robo-calls Duke made over the weekend asking Louisiana voters to support his candidacy and Donald Trump’s presidential bid also received coverage in newspapers and on news blogs all over the world. On Wednesday, The Jerusalem Post opined on the calls and Duke’s relationship with Trump. (Trump’s campaign disavowed Duke’s endorsement.)

With two dozen candidates running for the Senate, even a candidate polling in the low teens has a legitimate shot at making the runoff, noted Powell, a widely published historian who wrote “The Accidental City” and co-edited the four-volume “Encyclopedia of the Confederacy.”

Coming in third or fourth in the Nov. 8 primary would invigorate Duke’s political movement, said Karen Carvin Shachat, the coalition’s manager.

“We think there is a moral imperative that he not win, not only that, but that he not do well,” she said Wednesday. “We want him to come in 20th.”

Shachat’s late father, political consultant Jim Carvin, was a founder of the original coalition.

She filled out the Federal Election Commission paperwork to reestablish the dormant group on Monday, July 25, following Duke’s surprising entry into the race on the previous Friday afternoon. She filed incorporation papers with the Secretary of State a week later.

Back in 1991 and 1992, the coalition raised about $191,000 to fund the statewide campaign against Duke. She hopes to raise more for television advertising.

“In this climate that produced Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, you can’t take anything for granted,” Shachat said.

(Trump repeatedly has repudiated Duke’s backing. But some commentators and some Democrats point out that Trump unexpectedly won the GOP nomination using sharp rhetoric and, in some cases, holding political positions that Duke also shares.)

The Louisiana Coalition against Racism and Nazism’s membership crosses religious, racial and party lines – including some Trump supporters. For instance, Shachat said, Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court Jon A. Gegenheimer, a Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention, supports the group.

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.