Kennedy, the state treasurer, and Campbell, a public service commissioner, advanced to the runoff election after none of the 23 candidates who ran in November won a majority of the vote. Under the state’s rules, if no candidate wins a majority of the vote, the top two candidates enter a runoff election.
The race had far-reaching implications in Washington, D.C. Republicans won control of the Senate last month with a razor thin margin. By picking off a seat in Louisiana, Democrats had hoped to deny the GOP its 52nd vote in the upper chamber and possibly block portions of President-elect Donald Trump’s agenda in the capitol. A closer margin also would have threatened some of his more controversial Cabinet picks, which are subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Despite the high stakes of the outcome, Campbell never stood much of a chance. Kennedy led in every poll conducted in the deep red state, which Trump carried by 20 points in November.
Even though Campbell out-raised Kennedy by more than $1 million in recent weeks much of it from small donors across the country the Democrat struggled to generate enthusiasm for his campaign among Louisianans. Even the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which helps fund Democratic Senate campaigns across the U.S., opted against investing in his long-shot bid.
With their agenda possibly on the line, Trump’s team took no chances in the last few weeks, dispatching both the president-elect and Vice President-elect Mike Pence to Louisiana to stump on behalf of Kennedy.
“He’s a great guy. He’s a good guy. Number one, he’s a good person,” Trump said in Baton Rouge on Friday. “If he doesn’t win, I’ve got myself a problem in Washington.”
The president-elect attacked Campbell, casting him as beholden to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. “I don’t mean to be rude, but if you took Secretary Clinton upside down and shook her, Foster Campbell would fall out of her pocket,” he said.
Campbell played down his differences with Trump during the race, but said he would act as a check on him in Congress. His campaign enlisted the aid of newly elected Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), who in a closing ad said Campbell would “stand with the new president when he’s right for Louisiana but has the courage to say no when he’s wrong.”
The race seemed to fizzle in the last few weeks, however. The only scheduled debate between the two candidates was called off after their campaigns failed to reach an agreement over the inclusion of a live audience. Late in the race, an ad produced by a super PAC supporting Campbell attacked Kennedy from the right over the issue of abortion. It claimed the Republican once supported abortion. Kennedy denied that, and the ad never seemed to make an impact.
Kennedy will succeed retiring Sen. David Vitter (R) in January.