David Duke

David Duke, R-Mandeville. 

Max Becherer

U.S. Senate candidate and Mandeville resident David Duke got a big thumbs down from the St. Tammany Republican Party Executive Committee, which voted last week to follow the Louisiana GOP in denouncing the former Ku Klux Klan leader.

The committee voted unanimously to adopt the state party's language, it said in a news release Monday.

"The Republican Party opposes, in the strongest possible terms, David Duke's candidacy for any public office,'' that statement says in part, calling Duke a convicted felon and "hate-filled fraud who does not embody the values of the Republican Party'' and promising to play an active role in opposing his candidacy.

Larry Frieman, chairman of the St. Tammany committee, said in a phone interview that adopting the state GOP's statement was "the least of what they wanted to do.''

He said the 19-member committee talked about not inviting Duke to attend its endorsement forum. But the committee's bylaws require inviting all Republican candidates, he said.

Had that requirement not been in place, Frieman said, the committee would not have invited Duke to the forum, which is set for 6 p.m. Aug. 23 in the St. Tammany Parish Council chambers on Koop Drive.

All nine Republican candidates in the crowded field for Sen. David Vitter's seat have been invited, he said, including Duke. So far, three have confirmed they will be there: John Fleming, Rob Maness and Charles Marsala.

In a written statement, Frieman said the 19-member committee represents "viewpoints from across the conservative spectrum (as) reflected in members of different sexes, ages and races.''

"In the strongest possible terms, we rebuke (Duke's) views and his agenda, and denounce his candidacy for any office,'' he said.

Frieman said the move is an unusual one that he has not seen in his seven years of being affiliated with the St. Tammany Republican committee.

Duke did not return a call for comment.

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.