- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - White supremacist David Duke has become a flashpoint between the top Democratic contenders in Louisiana’s wide-open U.S. Senate race as they compete for support from black voters.

Lawyer Caroline Fayard is running radio and TV ads seeking to tie Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell to the former Ku Klux Klan leader, who also is running for the Senate.

Campbell and Fayard are competing on a list of 24 candidates for the seat left open by Republican David Vitter, who isn’t seeking re-election. The election is Nov. 8, but the race is expected to be decided in a Dec. 10 runoff between the top two.

Campbell and Fayard are polling among the top five. Duke, a Republican, lags in the polls and doesn’t appear to have a shot.

Campbell called the attacks misleading race-baiting by Fayard, and he’s fired back with TV and online ads accusing Fayard of lying and saying she’s using “her personal wealth to try to buy a Senate seat.” Campbell’s African-American supporters have recorded videos supporting him.

Fayard doubled down on Friday, distributing a photo showing Campbell shaking Duke’s hand. Her campaign said she’s not taking down the advertising and suggested “new evidence of the relationship” between Campbell and Duke “continues to emerge.”

That refusal to take down the ad cost Fayard an endorsement from the Alliance for Good Government, which prohibited recordings at the forum. Fayard suggested she was “rejecting” the endorsement anyway.

“Bowing to political pressure, they have attempted to silence our campaign and to suppress the truth: that Foster Campbell is a fraud,” Fayard said in a statement.

The TV spot includes a snippet of audio of Campbell saying he “may be like Mr. Duke,” but leaves out the context. The full give-and-take is available in a transcript on Fayard’s website, in an opposition research file that has been visible to the public. It says that when asked to name two tax exemptions, Campbell replied: “Oh yeah, you know I can name, I may be like Mr. Duke?, I might be able to name like 10.”

Campbell’s campaign also notes that Fayard’s radio ad says Campbell and Duke co-sponsored bills when they served in the Louisiana Legislature, but leaves out that the bills were co-sponsored by dozens of lawmakers and were not legislation on which the two men closely worked.

Ms. Fayard thinks she can race-bait voters and lie to them and get away with it. She’s wrong,” Campbell said in a statement.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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