BATON ROUGE — Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, an avowed white supremacist, officially signed up Friday to run for US Senate in Louisiana, saying “the climate of this country has moved in my direction”.
“I believe my time has come,” Duke said after submitting his paperwork for the ballot. He added: “The people of this country, the patriotic, decent, God-fearing people of this country are now right with me.”
Duke’s candidacy comes one day after Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination for president, and Duke said he’s espoused principles for years that are similar to the themes Republicans are now supporting in Trump’s campaign, on issues such as immigration and trade.
He said the majority of Americans are “embracing the core issues I have fought for my entire life”.
The launch of Duke’s campaign also comes as the state is grappling with deep racial tensions after the shooting death of a black man by white police officers and the killing of three law enforcement officers by a black man. Duke said he was “shattered” by the slayings of police and said they were “one of the things that tipped me to going for this race”.
In a lengthy speech, Duke talked of the “massive racial discrimination going on right now against European Americans”, and what he called a biased media working against him. He described the Black Lives Matter movement as a “terrorist organization”.
He said his slogan remains “America first”.
A registered Republican, Duke is seeking an open seat vacated by Republican David Vitter.
Nearly two dozen candidates have signed up for the Senate race. The seat is open because Vitter decided not to seek re-election on the November 8 ballot.
Republicans at the state and federal level quickly denounced Duke’s Senate bid.
Roger Villere, chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana, said in a statement the party “will play an active role in opposing” him.
“The Republican Party opposes, in the strongest possible terms, David Duke’s candidacy for any public office. David Duke is a convicted felon and a hate-filled fraud who does not embody the values of the Republican Party,” Villere said Friday.
Ward Baker, with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Louisiana voters have several GOP candidates “who will have a great impact on the Bayou State and the future of our country”.
“David Duke is not one of them. He will not have the support of the NRSC under any circumstance,” Baker said in a statement.
Duke is a former state representative who represented suburban New Orleans for a single term more than two decades ago and was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress. His failed bid for governor in the 1991 race against former Gov. Edwin Edwards — who was later convicted of corruption — was one of Louisiana’s most high-profile elections, with Duke opponents proudly showing bumper stickers supporting Edwards that read “Vote for the crook. It’s important”.
In a posting on his website, Duke said he’d been “urged by enormous numbers of people” in his district to run for United States Congress.
“With the country coming apart at the seams and no one willing to really speak the truth about what is happening, the majority population in this country needs someone who will actually give voice to their interests in the face of an increasingly violent hatefest launched by the media and political establishment against them,” Duke’s website says.
Duke, a convicted felon, pleaded guilty in 2002 to bilking his supporters and cheating on his taxes. He spent a year in federal prison, but later denied any wrongdoing.