Meet Foster Campbell, Democrats' Last Hope to Flip a 2016 Senate Seat

The 2016 election isn't over. While much of America is still reeling from Hillary Clinton's loss in the Electoral College, a Louisiana senate race rages on.

Enter Foster Campbell, a cattle rancher, former state senator and public service commissioner with a populist bent, who is passionate about saving Medicare, equal pay laws, increasing the mimimum wage, and protecting Louisiana's coastline. Campbell faces Republican John Neely Kennedy in a December 10 runoff election. Kennedy may have the advantage in the latest polls and in terms of party support, but national donations and attention, including features in the New York Times, the New Republic and Vogue, as well as Democrats' hope to wring a shred of good news from the Trump victory wreckage, keeps Campbell fighting on. 

This extended election is all thanks to Louisiana's aptly named "jungle primary" system, a civics free-for-all in which any candidate from any party can run for congressional and other down-ballot races. If no one gets 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates go to a runoff. This time, two-dozen candidates fought for the seat vacated by David Vitter, best known for a prostitution scandal.

Kennedy, whose similarly folksy style belies his Oxford education, has the support of the Republican National Committee and was apparently enough of a draw to get VP-elect Mike Pence to a get-out-the-vote rally for him. Campbell only just attracted the attention of the Democratic National Committee, as evidenced in a fundraising email that went out on November 30. While his love for guns and mixed record on reproductive rights may differ from some Democrats, Campbell is still the party's best hope for taking back power from people like Paul Ryan.

In between campaign stops, Campbell chatted with AlterNet via email about saving Medicare, fighting big business and why Americans should have their eyes on Louisiana.  

Ilana Novick: Why should the rest of the country be paying attention to the Louisiana senate race?

Foster Campbell: I could be the deciding vote on important issues like privatizing Social Security and Medicare. I won’t let that happen, but my opponent will. For everyone out there who wants someone in the Senate that won’t be beholden to special interests and who has a clear record of fighting for the little guy, that’s me. I think that appeals to a lot of people no matter where they live.

But ultimately, I’m focused on helping the people of Louisiana. And that’s why I haven’t changed my tune. I’m talking issues that matter most to Louisiana people. 

IN: What are your top three most important issues in this campaign? 

FC: 1) Coastal restoration—we’re $50 billion short on the plan to fix our coast. We lose a football field of land every hour and our way of life is under threat; 2) raising the minimum wage: $7.25 isn’t a living wage; 3) equal pay for women—Louisiana has the largest gender pay gap in the country. I’m sick of it. 

IN: You've been a state senator, a teacher, on the Public Service Commission, and a cattle rancher. How does this experience make you a good candidate for national office? 

FC: Unlike my opponent, I’ve never been a full-time professional politician. I think that being in business has helped me stay connected to my constituents. I know what small businesses are facing, I know how desperate times really are in terms of unemployment because I am still so connected to the people I represent. There’s an old saying, “There’s no wrong way to do the right thing.” That’s how I run my business and my politics. The proof is in my record. I built a billion-dollar trust fund for education, cut down corporate profits to help consumers and fought for victims of domestic violence.

IN: Some Democratic lawmakers are talking about working with Trump on issues like his infrastructure plan and trade. How do you view this, and how will you fight against a Trump administration?

FC: First, I’ll never let Donald Trump appoint [former Lousiana governor] Bobby Jindal to his cabinet. Jindal wrecked our state with the help of my opponent. I’ll also never let Trump privatize Social Security or Medicare. When it comes to trade, I agree we need better trade deals that build our middle class, not the middle class of other countries. I think rebuilding our infrastructure puts people to work and I’ll fight for it.  

IN: How has the national attention impacted the race? 

FC: I’m largely immune to the national attention. I’m thankful for small contributions that have come in from all over the country. I’ve had the same populist message for 40 years. I didn’t catch up to the world, the world caught up to me. 


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