Luke Mixon Press Club

Senate hopeful Luke Mixon, a Democrat, speaking at the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday, January 10, 2022. 

Luke Mixon is running as a John Bel Edwards Democrat as he challenges the re-election of U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican, and now Mixon can count on the governor’s support.

“Luke Mixon has dedicated his life to serving our country, and with so much going on in the world, we need someone with his experiences in the United States Senate,” Edwards said in a statement Thursday.

Edwards’ support provides a seal of approval for Mixon over another Democrat, Gary Chambers Jr., who has overshadowed him so far. It also means Edwards will help Mixon raise money, something his campaign badly needs. The governor will headline a Mixon fundraiser in New Orleans on June 16.

Both Democrats, however, are long shots against Kennedy in a race that national handicappers have proclaimed as a safe seat for the Republican as he seeks a second six-year term. Kennedy has far-outraised his two Democratic challengers and has good polling numbers.

Edwards praised Mixon in January, but it’s unusual for the governor to step out so strongly in favor of one Democrat over another in a high-profile race.

But Mixon has a similar military background to Edwards as a Naval Academy graduate who was a Navy fighter pilot for 20 years. A native of Bunkie, Mixon ended his career as the commander of the Navy’s squadron in New Orleans. He is now a Delta Air Lines pilot.

Edwards graduated from West Point and served as a captain in the Army before returning to Louisiana to attend law school and later starting a political career.

Edwards was full of praise for Mixon in his statement without, notably, taking any shots at Kennedy.

“Washington is more broken than ever, and Congress has become paralyzed by partisanship,” Edwards said. “I’ve governed by always putting Louisiana first. Whether it’s funding to recover from devastating natural disasters or to repair our crumbling infrastructure, Luke Mixon will work with both parties to make sure Louisiana’s needs are met in Washington. I am proud to support his campaign because I know that in these serious times, people with Luke’s background know how to get the job done.”

Edwards also didn’t say anything in his statement about Chambers, a Black social justice advocate who is running far to the left of Mixon, who is White.

Chambers has released two online campaign ads. In one, he smoked a blunt – a cigarette with marijuana and tobacco – while decrying marijuana laws that have incarcerated millions of people who possessed small amounts of the drug.

In the other, he brazenly burned a Confederate flag and said racism has forced too many Black people to live in poverty, go without health insurance and not have the right to vote.

Chambers’ publicity stunts and no-holds-barred message have generated nationwide attention for him and made Mixon almost an after-thought in the race.

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“Currently there is one Democrat who has the best position to defeat John Kennedy in November, that’s our people powered campaign," Timme Mackie, a spokesperson for Chambers, said in a statement. "We’ve raised more money than any other Democrat with thousands of grassroots donors, we are out polling every other Democrat, and we’ve made this race have national attention by focusing on issues like women’s reproductive rights and universal healthcare, legalization and decriminalization of marijuana, creating jobs and fighting inequity and injustice."

Like Edwards, Mixon is anti-abortion. He has also supported President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package and backs the president’s initiative to spend more money on health care, climate change and early childhood education.

Mixon has criticized Kennedy for voting against the infrastructure package that will provide billions of dollars for new and upgraded roads, bridges and water systems in Louisiana. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana’s other Republican senator, voted for it.

Last week, Mixon blasted Kennedy for opposing expanded background checks on gun purchases, in the wake of the Texas school shooting that killed 19 children.

Mixon has also criticized Kennedy for casting a vote on Jan. 6, 2021, that could have overturned Biden’s election.

“I'm running to represent the 70% in the middle who want safe communities, good schools, affordable health care, decent jobs, and a future for their children," Mixon said in a statement.

Kennedy is running with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump and as a vocal Biden opponent.

Kennedy had raised $22.78 million through March 31, the latest campaign filing period, and had nearly $14 million on hand.

Chambers had collected $800,000 through March 31 and had $470,000 in cash.

Mixon had raised $477,000 and had $241,000 on hand.

In a brief interview on Wednesday, Kennedy said he is traveling the country to raise money.

The primary is on Nov. 8.

Email Tyler Bridges at tbridges@theadvocate.com.