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Louisiana Democrat running for Senate highlights effort from party leaders to stifle election chances

A Democrat seeking to represent Louisiana in the Senate has accused his party of working against him, and says his party should sort out its messaging ahead of the midterm elections.

In an interview with Fox News Digital on Thursday, Gary Chambers said he is running for Senate to better the lives of Louisianans who face economic hardships and noted some of the roadblocks he has faced as a Black candidate along the way, specifically those in his own party.

“I think that any Black candidate is always going to have to prove themselves to be qualified in the eyes of certain communities,” Chambers said. “What we’re dealing with here in Louisiana is a Republican Party that works against 34% of the state, as well as the leadership of the Democratic Party that sometimes seems like the Republican Party.”

Chambers said he gained the state party’s executive committee endorsement, but when it came time for the party to vote on his endorsement last weekend, the Democratic State Central Committee and Katie Bernhardt, the chair of the state party, blocked him from being the only endorsed candidate. 

And Chambers accused Bernhardt of telling him last year “that a Black man can’t win in Louisiana statewide.”

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“I think this logic that a Black candidate can’t win in Louisiana is just appalling,” Chambers told Fox News Digital. 

Noting the importance of getting Democrats to the polls in November, Chambers claimed Bernhardt does not “represent Louisiana Democrats.”

“She’s worked consistently to try to stop me from being successful, and that only aids [incumbent Sen.] John Kennedy, who is a Republican who’s led us in a terrible way, where we rank 50th in the nation,” he said. “We need real Democrats. I think that the executive committee of the Democratic Party has spoken and shown that they want a real Democrat.”

Chambers said Bernhardt decided to “suspend the rules” during a weekend meeting by party leaders in the state in an effort to stifle his chances of getting a sole endorsement from the executive committee.

A weekend debate by the committee ultimately resulted in a decision to issue endorsements for three Democratic candidates in the election on Nov. 8, including Chambers, Luke Mixon and Syrita Steib, all of whom are seeking to unseat Kennedy, the presumptive Republican nominee, in the December general election. Fox News Power Rankings consider Louisiana to be a safe Republican seat.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., who has served in the Senate since 2017, is the presumptive Republican nominee for Senate in Louisiana.

Following the decision from the committee, which received backlash from Chambers and other Democrats, Bernhardt released a statement, according to Louisiana’s KALB, that said the Democratic State Central Committee’s duty is to “uphold the will of our members.”

“The members of the DSCC spoke with that vote, and it is our duty to uphold the will of our members,” Bernhardt said. “We believe that all three endorsed candidates for U.S. Senate, along with our endorsed congressional candidates and all Democratic candidates for PSC, are strong candidates who can get voters to the polls. We will be here every step of the way to support all of them in that endeavor.”

Despite Bernhardt’s alleged actions to prevent Chambers from receiving the party’s nomination, the Louisiana Senate hopeful insisted that Bernhardt’s behavior is not a “reflection of the party,” but instead a “reflection of someone who is a quasi Republican attempting to lead the Democratic Party.”

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Discussing the current administration, Chambers said he believes the Democratic Party needs to better communicate its messaging on what President Biden has “accomplished” since taking office.

“I think the party, nationally, has got to do a better job touting some of the things that the president has accomplished,” Chambers said. “Some of the legislation that the president has accomplished — the infrastructure bill is one, it’s the biggest investment in infrastructure in 50, 60 years — you look at the CHIPS Act, that’s gonna allow us to make more chips here in America rather than foreign countries, where we know that’s impacting the cost of goods and services.”

“We’ve also gotta have a party that is reflective of its base, and that’s the conflict we have here in Louisiana,” he added. “You gotta listen to the people that are grassroots organizers that are out there helping mobilize people. I think the president and the party have some things to be proud of, I just don’t think they have effectively communicated that message.”

President Biden signs the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022 in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington on April 6, 2022.

Discussing ways for Democrats and Republicans to come together to implement change for Americans, Chambers praised Democratic-controlled states across the country and insisted that “Southern states are the worst states in America” due to Republican leadership.

“One party has got to figure out how to do something that brings a piece of legislation that we find out that’s good for everybody,” Chambers said. “I don’t know if that happens right now. Every election is chasing the next election … that’s a huge part of why we have this divide. I think that we’ve got to have conversations about this economy to fix it because here’s the reality: Republicans are eventually going to have to answer for why the 10 worst states in America, the majority of them, are led by Republican legislatures, Republican governors. We need to begin to challenge them on that and say that these policies aren’t working for people, specifically in the South.”

“The majority of the Southern states are the worst states in America,” Chambers added. “They’re run by Republicans and their policies aren’t working. We need to be able to call that out in an effective way. The top 10 states in America are led by Democrats or Democratic legislatures, and they’re producing jobs and their economies are stronger.”

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Chambers said his campaign is focused on discussing the “change that people want to see.”

“When we look at where we are and where this economy is, wages haven’t gone up, but the price of gas, milk and food has,” Chambers said. “The president passed an Inflation Reduction Act — Senator John Kennedy voted against that. You can’t say that you wanna solve the inflation problem and then not work for the policies that actually help us address this issue. We need a Democrat that doesn’t care about partisan politics as much as they care about voting for policies that help the people of Louisiana.”

“You look at any category, we are first in the worst, and I think that’s because of the policies that we support, the leaders that speak for us and the division we play into that doesn’t actually benefit the people of Louisiana,” Chambers said, speaking of the state’s ranking among its national counterparts on issues like education and healthcare.

Louisiana Senate candidate Gary Chambers smokes marijuana in a campaign ad.

Chambers said he thinks Louisianans want to ensure that they “don’t have a senator like Kennedy” and claimed Kennedy voted against infrastructure spending following Hurricane Ida.

“We had people at home in Louisiana, after Hurricane Ida, who didn’t have power for four weeks after Hurricane Ida and at the same time, Kennedy was voting against infrastructure dollars. That doesn’t make any sense to people in South Louisiana,” Chambers said.

“I call him ‘John “the Con” Kennedy’ because he spends a lot of time on TV talking like Foghorn Leghorn and very little time leading the people of Louisiana,” he added.

Earlier this year, Chambers made headlines after he appeared in a campaign ad smoking marijuana. Asked about that advertisement and what he hoped to accomplish with it, Chambers pointed to the life sentence of Kevin Allen received in Louisiana after he was arrested for selling $20 worth of marijuana to a friend.

“Seventy percent of voters in Louisiana believe we should legalize recreational cannabis, and I just think that it’s at a time when this is a justice issue and an economic issue,” Chambers said. 

“I didn’t smoke a blunt because I wanted to make it cool or popular. People are doing this every day. This is the reality of the world we live in. What I did it for is so we could take the stigma away, because there are people in Congress that are smoking weed, okay? They may never openly say that they’re smoking weed, but there are people in Congress who are smoking weed. Why? Because in D.C., it’s not illegal,” he said.

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