Republican wins US Senate seat in Louisiana runoff, as expected

The win gives the Republicans a 52-48 majority in the US Senate come January and draws to a close the 2016 campaign season.

Mike Segar/Reuters/File
US President-elect Donald Trump waves with Louisiana state Treasurer John Kennedy, a Republican who won his bid for US Senate in Saturday's runoff election, during a "Thank You USA" tour rally in Baton Rouge, La., on Friday.

John Kennedy won Louisiana's US Senate seat handily in a runoff election Saturday, as expected, despite a flood of donations from Democrats nationwide who opposed him because of their dissatisfaction with US President-elect Donald Trump.

Mr. Kennedy, the Republican state treasurer, carried more than 60 percent of the vote against Democratic state utility regulator Foster Campbell, according to preliminary results. His win gives the Republicans a 52-48 majority in the Senate come January and draws to a close the 2016 campaign season.

"This campaign was about changing the status quo," Kennedy said during his victory speech, as The News-Star in Monroe, La., reported from Baton Rouge. Even so, Kennedy said he will work with Mr. Campbell and Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to ensure that The Pelican State's interests are well represented in Washington.

"I'll be a senator for all the people," he added.

Kennedy and Campbell were among 24 qualifying candidates in the state's so-called "jungle primary" on Nov. 8, which included two Republican congressmen and former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke. They were all vying for the seat being vacated by Sen. David Vitter, a Republican who decided against seeking a third term after he lost his bid for governor last year. Since none of the candidates secured more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two contenders moved on to Saturday's runoff election.

Kennedy, who was already favored to win based on the state's tendency to vote Republican, had an added boost Friday from Mr. Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who visited the state and rallied for the candidate.

"If he doesn't win, I have myself a problem in Washington. It's close," Trump said at a rally for Kennedy on Friday, as The New York Times reported.

"If John's not there, maybe we can't build the wall," Trump added later, suggesting that one of his campaign promises as president to combat illegal immigration by constructing a barrier along the 1,900-mile border between the United States and Mexico could hinge on Kennedy's election.

Before the presidential election last month, pollsters said Republicans might lose their majority in the Senate, just as they said Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would more-than-likely win the White House. While those projections did not come to pass, the fact remains that this year's Senate races have been heavily influenced by the presidential race.

"I think the local issues have really been swamped by the national campaign, and that, of course, is the risk you always have when there's a presidential contest at the top of the ballot," Peverill Squire, a political science professor at the University of Missouri, Columbia, told The Christian Science Monitor the day before Trump's victory.

Democrats demonstrated this intermingling of Senate and presidential politics by bolstering Campbell's campaign with more than 50,000 donations, some seeing Louisiana's runoff as a final opportunity for a Democratic victory. Between Oct. 20 and Nov. 20, donors gave $1.7 million in small-dollar amounts – more than double what Campbell had collected in the months before the general election, as the Monitor reported.

The donations were insufficient, however, to sway Louisiana voters, who made it clear they approve of the GOP's direction with Trump at the helm.

"With 52 seats in the U.S. Senate, we are excited for Republicans to confirm a conservative Supreme Court justice and begin working with President-elect Trump to pass an agenda of change for the American people," Republican National Committee co-chair Sharon Day said in a statement.

Prior to this year's elections, the Republicans held a 54-46 majority in the Senate, counting two Independents who caucus with the Democrats.

Material from The Associated Press was included in this report.

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