David Duke, who is running for the U.S. Senate, lost his campaign coordinator Monday over a disagreement about how the former Ku Klux Klan leader should present himself to the public.
“My basic strategy was to show a different side of the man and present a real person, thus hoping his message would be more effective and debunking the image that the media had taken of him,” said Mike Lawrence in an interview with The Advocate.
Lawrence was hoping to engineer a political comeback for Duke, whose career height was in the early 1990s with credible runner-up showings in races for the U.S. Senate and Louisiana governor. Subsequent bids for Congress and for president failed to bring in anywhere near the 671,009 votes he received in 1991. He pleaded guilty in December 2002 to felony tax fraud and served time in a federal prison.
Lawrence said he wanted Duke to play down his past as a leader in the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, even to the point making light of it. But Duke was unwilling to do so, he said.
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When qualifying in July to join the field of two dozen candidates for one of Louisiana’s U.S. Senate seats, with Lawrence at his side, Duke criticized the media for constantly referring to him as a former Klan leader. The 66-year-old Duke argued that he held the position for five or six years when he was in his 20s.
The Mandeville Republican said he would run to represent the interests of white "European Americans" because people of other ethnic groups already have champions.
“It was my intention to run a more diversified campaign,” Lawrence said. “My sentiment regarding my involvement was that I could bring in aspects to the campaign that Duke did not have in previous ones.”
Duke’s Senate campaign has failed to take off, at least according to numerous polls that show him with support in the single digits.
But Lawrence said Duke has traditionally under polled. “I feel Duke is a strong contender in this Senate race, and it cannot be denied that his support lies below radar,” Lawrence said.
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He is a retired state auditor who also has real estate holdings.
Lawrence resigned Monday, effectively immediately. He said he still considers Duke a personal friend.
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