U.S. Senate race taking shape
When Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter lost the governor’s race to Democrat John Bel Edwards and decided not to seek a third term in the U.S. Senate, it was a given that several viable candidates would decide to run for the political plum.
Four Republicans and two Democrats threw their hats into the political ring who are considered the most viable among a growing list of candidates. When the declarations of candidacy settled, political analysts began to assess the race.
Two candidates stood out among the field in the early going – Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell. The smart money was on those two to wind up in the runoff.
And that seems to be the way the race is shaping up at this point. A word of caution, however. The primary is not until November 8 with qualifying taking place on July 20-22. Politics are always unpredictable in Louisiana – as the governor’s race verified.
But two recent polls on the U.S. Senate race seem to confirm early predictions. Kennedy leads in both and Campbell has moved into second place in the most recent poll. Still, about a third of the state’s voters remain undecided.
The latest poll, taken by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research between May 31 and June 2, showed Kennedy with 24% and Campbell with 14%. In third place was U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany with 11%. Undecided respondents totaled 33%.
The other three major candidates were in single digits. Democrat Caroline Fayard had 9%, while Republicans U.S. Rep. John Fleming had 7% and retired Air Force Colonel Rob Maness had 3%.
An earlier poll taken between May 19 and May 23 by Southern Media Opinion Research had these results: Kennedy 32%, Boustany 10%, Campbell 9%, Fleming 5%, Maness 4%, and Fayard 4%. Two additional candidates were polled in the SMOR poll who were not included in the Anzalone Liszt survey. Troy Hebert, an independent, had 2%, and Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, a Republican who has not officially announced, had 1%.
Pollster Jim Kitchens of The Kitchens Group says poll toplines can be analyzed using other information to give a fuller picture of where a race really is.
“Every Louisiana pollster makes reasonable adjustments to the test ballot based on historical outcomes that show 95% of African-Americans vote for a Democrat,” Kitchens said.
He added, “With the large percentage of African-American vote being undecided, and knowing that up to 33% of total turnout could be from African-American voters this year, even if it splits between the two Democrats, Foster Campbell moves into a highly competitive position to not only make a runoff, but to overtake Kennedy.”
Campbell, who resides in Elm Grove in Bossier Parish, told the Fax-Net: “What we’re seeing on paper is matching the feedback we are getting on the campaign trail. We’ve got the momentum and we’re going to grow it.”
He noted that he has the endorsement of Gov. Edwards, which is proving to be a big asset to his campaign. “I backed him for governor and he promised to support me in the Senate race. He is a man of his word, and I appreciate his support,” Campbell said.
To prove the confidence Campbell has in his candidacy, he ponied up $250,000 of his own money to jump-start his campaign. Since then, Campbell says he has been successful in raising money in all parts of the state.
Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.