A sluggish U.S. Senate race seemed to hit its stride Tuesday when the two major Democratic candidates launched their first television ads while U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany aired his second introductory spot.
With slightly over a month to election day, the ads by Democrats Caroline Fayard and Foster Campbell mean that all of the major candidates in the race to replace Sen. David Vitter are airing their messages to voters.
The leading Republicans – state Treasurer John Kennedy, U.S. Rep. John Fleming and Boustany – began their first introductory ads in recent days.
“They all seem to be doing what they have to do,” said Henry Sirgo, a political science professor at McNeese State. “People won’t get interested in the campaigning pretty much until now.”
Meanwhile, a super PAC supporting Kennedy aired an ad Tuesday claiming that Fleming and Boustany have enriched themselves while serving in Congress.
The Senate primary election is on Nov. 8, the same day as the presidential election. The top two finishers in the 24-candidate field will advance to a runoff on Dec. 10, making the Senate election the last one in the country this year.
The Senate race has developed slowly.
At this point during the governor’s race a year ago, the four major candidates had already been airing ads for weeks touting their bios and attacking their opponents. Outside super PACs had been running ads aimed at undercutting the credibility of disfavored candidates.
Political analysts say this year’s race has taken longer to take shape because of the distractions caused by the massive flooding in metro Baton Rouge in July and the outsized attention focused on the two unpopular presidential candidates.
The top five candidates – Fayard, Kennedy, Fleming, Campbell and Boustany – are bunched together and have a path to making the runoff, a poll in mid-September by Southern Media & Opinion Research showed.
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Two other Republican candidates who trailed the top five – former Air Force Col. Rob Maness and white supremacist David Duke – are angling for a spot in the runoff but have yet to air TV ads. They both have said it’s too early to count them out. Maness pointed out that 26 percent of the likely voters polled by Southern Media hadn’t settled on a candidate while Duke questioned the poll’s accuracy.
Fayard, Boustany and Fleming all have claimed in recent days that polls show them “moving.” The Fleming campaign made that claim by pointing to one poll – without disclosing that it had paid for it.
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The campaign ads that launched Tuesday reflect the thinking that candidates prefer to begin with positive spots.
The Fayard and Campbell ads present a similar tone.
Fayard, a New Orleans attorney and businesswoman, speaks to the camera with 10 smiling children serving as props.
“This is Louisiana’s future,” she says as she walks behind them, “and why we can’t turn back the clock to the politics of the past.”
Campbell, a member of the Public Service Commission from Bossier Parish, speaks to the camera, too, and includes video of him shaking hands with Gov. John Bel Edwards, his most prominent supporter.
“It’s time for the rich and powerful to pay their fair share,” Campbell says, “and for the middle class and small businesses to get a break.”
In their ads, both Fayard and Campbell call for a higher minimum wage and equal pay for women – positions supported by Democrats.
In his ad, Boustany notes his background as a heart surgeon in Lafayette and says while standing in a living room, “You deserve a senator who will be accountable for results.”
The ad by the pro-Kennedy super PAC, ESAFund, targets Fleming, who was elected to the House in 2008, and Boustany, who was elected in 2004.
It claims that both are “Washington insiders.”
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The super PAC is headed by Kyle Ruckert, who could qualify as a Washington insider himself; having spent more than a dozen years working in Vitter’s D.C. office before returning to his native Louisiana last year to manage Vitter’s losing campaign for governor.