If you ever require a quick read on which way a U.S. House or Senate seat is leaning, check out the Cook Political Report. With staff in Washington, D.C., and some roots in Louisiana, the Report categorizes seats as leaning either Democrat or Republican—or as a “toss-up,” if an election looks particularly tight. The Report’s blue and red spectrum charts are a staple for political junkies across the nation.
The seat currently occupied by U.S. Sen. John Kennedy can be found on the far right of the Cook Report’s color spectrum, underneath “Solid Republican.” With $9.7 million in his campaign war chest and a beltway press corps that won’t stop asking for quotes, Kennedy plans to protect that classification as he seeks reelection on the Nov. 8 ballot.
That classification, however, means very little to two Democrats who plan to qualify to oppose Kennedy. As expected, Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers officially announced his candidacy this week. He joins former fighter pilot Luke Mixon on the blue side of the election’s spectrum.
Politicos tracking this race have known for a few months that Chambers and Mixon would share space on this ballot. In fact, Chambers first expressed interest in the race via Twitter just 24 hours after Mixon announced in October. Chambers’ campaign issued a press release early Tuesday morning with its own announcement—just 24 hours after Mixon addressed members of the Baton Rouge Press Club, an important stop for statewide candidates.
Chambers and Mixon simply can’t avoid each other, and both separately and together they may become the most interesting features of this developing race.
Chambers made some important friends last year during his unsuccessful bid in the 2nd Congressional District. His progressive politics and unapologetic far-left stances opened him up to a national fundraising base and he claims to have 15,000 individual donors ready to cut checks. Chambers is an unexpected Democratic force on the move and he may be positioned to come out of this election stronger than ever.
If Chambers can post another aggressive fundraising haul in this election and build upon his penchant for earned media, he will become an unmissable factor in Democratic politics moving forward. In the truest sense, Chambers is the wild card to watch.
Mixon, meanwhile, hit the ground running with support from Democratic Party Chair Katie Bernhardt and a campaign staff with connections to Gov. John Bel Edwards and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. Mixon has been the establishment candidate on the Democratic side of this contest since October, and he spent much of the following weeks boldly attacking Kennedy’s votes and stances.
While it’s unlikely Chambers will knock votes off of Kennedy, some of Mixon’s supporters believe their candidate can do just that by taking the debate directly to the incumbent. Mixon, unlike Chambers, is also new to electoral politics, which will appeal to voters who don’t want to hear about things like fundraising.
“I don’t think people in Lake Charles with blue tarps on their roofs—I don’t think people in Lafourche and Terrebonne that have seen their houses devastated and the electricity not on—I don’t think they’re super concerned with Kennedy’s $10 million,” Mixon told reporters.
Chambers, for his part, didn’t say anything to reporters Tuesday when he officially made his announcement. Instead, the campaign said interviews would be available the following day. There was likely a good reason for handling media requests that way, but in practice it probably turned the announcement into a two-day story.
“Every single day, Louisianans across the state work hard to lift their families up to make ends meet and to build a better future for their children, and every day they are met with roadblock after roadblock, especially this past year,” Chambers said in his press release. “I’m running … because it’s time for real change in Louisiana from a candidate who understands firsthand the challenges facing Louisianans every day.”
An important question is whether Chambers and Mixon will get any help as they take on Kennedy. The Lincoln Project, which spends money on national races and has been critical of Kennedy in the past, seems to be keeping tabs on the action from afar. Fred Wellman, a senior adviser for the Lincoln Project, recently posted a Twitter appeal for support for Mixon’s campaign, while attacking Kennedy. (A request for comment was sent to Wellman and the Lincoln Project asking if the organization planned to participate in this year’s Senate election in Louisiana. Neither had replied by Tuesday morning.)
So for now, at least according to the Cook Political Report, the race is leaning solidly Republican. With both Chambers and Mixon in the mix, though, the election will at least be interesting.