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Last US Senate Seat Filled: Louisiana Republican Wins

  • Associated Press

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump waves with John Kennedy, who won the race Saturday for a seat in the U.S. Senate from Louisiana, during a "Thank You USA" tour rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Dec. 9, 2016.

Louisiana voters Saturday chose to send Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy to the U.S. Senate, filling the nation’s last Senate seat and giving the GOP a 52-48 edge in the chamber when the new term begins in January.

Kennedy had always been the runoff election’s front-runner in a state that overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump. He defeated Democrat Foster Campbell, a state utility regulator whose chances were seen as such a long-shot that national Democratic organizations offered little assistance to Campbell’s campaign.

Voters also filled two open U.S. House seats Saturday, choosing Republican Clay Higgins, a former sheriff’s captain known as the “Cajun John Wayne,” in the 3rd District representing southwest and south central Louisiana and Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson in the 4th District covering northwest Louisiana.

Voters also filled two open U.S. House seats Saturday, for the 3rd District representing southwest and south central Louisiana and the 4th District covering northwest Louisiana.

Louisiana has an open primary system in which all candidates run against each other. In the contests for the open congressional seats, the November primary ballots were packed with contenders, so the top two vote-getters advanced to Saturday’s runoff.

The Senate runoff drew national attention, with President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence each traveling to Louisiana to rally for Kennedy. The national GOP provided resources and staff to assist Kennedy’s campaign, while national Democratic organizations largely abandoned Campbell, assuming an easy win for Republicans.

Though Campbell’s chance appeared slim, donations for his campaign had poured in from around the country, and several Hollywood celebrities championed his candidacy as a way to bolster resistance to the Trump presidency.

The Senate seat was open because Republican David Vitter decided against running for a third term after losing the governor’s race last year. Both men vying for the seat are well-known figures, in Louisiana politics for decades.

Kennedy, an Oxford-educated lawyer from south Louisiana, is in his fifth term as treasurer, a role in which he repeatedly drew headlines for financial clashes with Louisiana’s governors.

He sprinkled speeches with examples of government-financed contracts he considered outrageous, like money “to study the effects of Swedish massage on bunny rabbits.” In the runoff, he ran a safe, TV-focused effort highlighting his support for Trump and his opposition to the federal health overhaul.

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