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What do the latest fundraising totals say about Louisiana's Senate race?

Tom Arthur

The fundraising battle in Louisiana’s lone U.S. Senate race shows incumbent Republican John Kennedy far outpacing his Democratic rivals with less than two weeks until early voting begins for the Nov. 8 election.

Kennedy has more than $15 million in his campaign war chest, a total that dwarfs the cash his Democratic challengers – Luke Mixon and Gary Chambers – appear to have on hand for the final weeks of campaigning. Luke Mixon has a little over half a million dollars while Chambers’ accounts have dwindled to just shy of $138,000.

Another candidate, Syrita Steib, an advocate for formerly incarcerated women and the only other candidate who has reported fundraising totals, has just over $15,000.

The Cook Political Report and others expect Kennedy to easily win reelection in ruby-Red Louisiana, but Mixon and Chambers are fighting to siphon off enough votes in the Nov. 8 primary to force Kennedy into a December runoff. Kennedy could avoid that if he wins more than 50% of the vote on election day.

The fundraising totals show that Chambers – who parlayed viral internet ads into an early fundraising boom – likely won’t have enough money to buy expensive television advertising before voters head to the polls this fall.

Chambers told The Advocate earlier this week that he does not plan to run television ads unless he reaches a runoff against Kennedy.

Mixon, who has enjoyed the support of the state’s centrist Democratic establishment in recent months, has already aired two TV ads touting his years of military service and vowing to vote to codify the right to abortion previously guaranteed by the Supreme Court’s decision Roe v. Wade.

Chambers made waves in the early days of his campaign with a series of provocative digital ads. Shortly after announcing his candidacy in January, Chambers released a video of himself openly smoking marijuana while commenting on the immense cost the state and country have incurred enforcing marijuana laws.

He followed that up weeks later with another ad in which he burned a confederate battle flag and said systemic racism has continued to disadvantage Black people in Louisiana and across the country.

Both internet spots went viral and earned Chambers a broad base of support among progressive donors inside and outside of Louisiana. Chambers raised $800,000 from January through March — far more than the $500,000 raised by Mixon.

But Mixon closed that gap after winning the endorsement of Governor John Bel Edwards and many of the state’s centrist Democrats this spring. His campaign has taken a traditional approach and turned that financial support into six-figure TV ad buys in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Monroe media markets.

Chambers, by comparison, has spent heavily on travel for out-of-state fundraisers and video production for his online ads. The approach has garnered millions of views for his videos and a level of social media attention unprecedented for a Democratic candidate in Louisiana. Chambers is counting on turning those page views and retweets into voter enthusiasm this fall.

But a recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and funded by the Mixon campaign this week showed Kennedy winning 53% percent of the vote, Mixon winning 16% and Chambers finishing third with 8%.

Paul Braun was WRKF's Capitol Access reporter, from 2019 through 2023.