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Louisiana runoff: Republicans fill last seats on Capitol Hill

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2016 election finalised with state treasurer John Kennedy beating Democrat Foster Campbell in Senate run-off and two House seats also going to GOP

Louisiana voters have chosen to send Republican state treasurer John Kennedy to the US Senate, filling the nations last Senate seat and giving the GOP a 52-48 edge in the chamber when the new term begins in January.

Kennedy had always been the runoff elections front-runner in a state that overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump. In Saturdays runoff he defeated Democrat Foster Campbell, a state utility regulator whose chances were seen as such a long shot that national Democratic organizations offered little assistance to his campaign.

As he celebrated the victory, Kennedy said he represented change in Washington.

I believe that our future can be better than our present, but not if we keep going in the direction the Washington insiders have taken us the last eight years, he said. Thats about to change, folks.

Voters also filled two open US House seats on Saturday, choosing Republican Clay Higgins, a former sheriffs captain known as the Cajun John Wayne, in the 3rd District representing south-west and south central Louisiana, and Republican state representative Mike Johnson in the 4th District covering north-west Louisiana.

Louisiana has an open primary system in which all candidates run against each other. In the contests for the open congressional seats, the November primary ballots were packed with contenders, so the top two vote-getters advanced to Saturdays runoff.

The Senate runoff drew national attention, with president-elect Donald Trump and vice president-elect Mike Pence each traveling to Louisiana to rally for Kennedy. The national GOP provided resources and staff to assist Kennedys campaign, while national Democratic organizations largely abandoned Campbell, assuming an easy win for Republicans.

Though Campbells chance appeared slim, donations for his campaign had poured in from around the country, and several Hollywood celebrities championed his candidacy as a way to bolster resistance to the Trump presidency.

The Senate seat was open because Republican David Vitter decided against running for a third term after losing the governors race last year. Both men vying for the seat are well-known figures, in Louisiana politics for decades.

Kennedy, an Oxford-educated lawyer from south Louisiana, is in his fifth term as treasurer, a role in which he repeatedly drew headlines for financial clashes with Louisianas governors.

He sprinkled speeches with examples of government-financed contracts he considered outrageous, such as money to study the effects of Swedish massage on bunny rabbits. In the runoff he ran a safe, TV-focused effort highlighting his support for Trump and his opposition to Obamacare.

The good thing about this race is that nobodys going to confuse the two of us, Kennedy said of his opponent. Hes a liberal. Im a conservative. He supported Clinton. I supported Mr Trump. He believes government can spend the money you earn better than you can. I dont.

Campbell called Kennedy a flip-flopper during prior Senate bids because the treasurer ran in 2004 as a liberal Democrat and the most recent two times as a conservative Republican.

In the 3rd District race, Higgins traded blistering attacks with his fellow Republican opponent, Scott Angelle, a member of the Public Service Commission and well-known public official for nearly 30 years.

Angelle had been the presumed front-runner. But Higgins, a local celebrity known for attention-grabbing Crime Stoppers videos he filmed when he was a sheriffs captain, capitalized on disenchantment with career politicians to defeat Angelle with only a fraction of his money and a bare-bones organization.

In the 4th District, Johnson defeated Democrat Marshall Jones in a competition that was less attack-laden. Johnson focused on his work on conservative issues as a constitutional attorney and in his two years as a state lawmaker. Jones, also a lawyer, downplayed his party affiliation, running as an anti-abortion, gun-rights Democrat who could work with Trump.

The House seats were open because Republicans Charles Boustany and John Fleming unsuccessfully sought the Senate seat instead of re-election.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/11/louisiana-runoff-republicans-fill-last-seats-on-capitol-hill

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