Politics

Louisiana Runoffs Increase Republican Majorities in Senate and House

State Treasurer John Kennedy easily outpaces Democratic challenger

Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy won Louisiana’s Senate runoff on Saturday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans increased their Senate majority to 52 seats in the 115th Congress and also retained two House seats after Saturday’s Louisiana runoffs, the final elections of 2016. 

GOP state Treasurer John Kennedy easily outdistanced his Democratic opponent, Public Services Commissioner Foster Campbell, 61 percent to 39 percent, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. He replaces Republican Sen. David Vitter, who is retiring after two terms.

Kennedy had led in recent polling, but Campbell had received late fundraising help from Democrats who saw him as the last chance to redeem themselves after a bruising election year.

Kennedy finished first and Campbell second in the 24-person open primary on Nov. 8. That result triggered a Dec. 10 runoff since no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote.

As a senator, Kennedy’s expected to be more anti-establishment than some of the Bayou State’s previous senators, but unlike hardliners like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, he’s driven more by populism than conservatism. 

Kennedy, who has served as Louisiana treasurer since 2000, ran as an outsider candidate. He boasted about his early support for President-elect Donald Trump, who campaigned with him in the state on Friday. But this was hardly Kennedy’s first attempt to come to Washington. The onetime Democrat ran for Senate in 2004, when he endorsed John Kerry for president. He switched parties in 2007 and unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in 2008.  

Meanwhile, the GOP also held onto to two House seats on Saturday. Republican Reps. Charles Boustany Jr., of the 3rd District, and John Fleming, of the 4th District, couldn’t seek re-election because they ran for Senate, both falling short of the top-two on Nov. 8.

In the 3rd District, Republican Clay Higgins prevailed in the all-Republican runoff over Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle

Higgins got 56 percent of the vote to  Angelle’s 44 percent with 100 percent of precincts reporting. 

Angelle, a former lieutenant governor, finished first in the Nov. 8 primary and was seen as more of the establishment pick because of a recent run for governor and an endorsement from Boustany. He raised significantly more money than Higgins.

But Higgins — “the Cajun John Wayne” — brought celebrity status to this race, thanks to his “Crime Stoppers” television program, which increased his name recognition. But he came with plenty of baggage, too, including legal troubles with previous wives and questions about why he asked to be paid in cash for public appearances. 

The House Freedom Caucus had the most at stake in the 4th District, as the retiring Fleming is one of their members. But they’re likely picking up a new member in state Rep. Mike Johnson, who easily won Saturday’s runoff. 

He got 65 percent of the vote to  Democratic lawyer Marshall Jones’ 35 percent, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. 

Jones had finished first on Nov. 8, but he was the only Democrat then, while the GOP vote was split among multiple Republicans, including Johnson, a constitutional lawyer, who finished second. 

The House Freedom Fund (the political arm of the Freedom Caucus), the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund all endorsed Johnson in this GOP-leaning district. Johnson also enjoyed a significant financial advantage. 

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