With the first round of voting in the Louisiana Senate race only two weeks away, state Sen. Ben Bagert, the officially endorsed Republican candidate, still has not been able to get a Cabinet member or a Republican senator to campaign or raise funds for him. But today a Republican will be campaigning in Louisiana -- for the incumbent Democrat, Sen. J. Bennett Johnston.
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is scheduled to appear with Johnston at airport news conferences in Shreveport, Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Polls show Bagert running a weak third in Louisiana's unique all-parties primary, trailing Johnston and state Rep. David Duke (R), the former Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party leader whose candidacy has been officially repudiated by the state and national GOP.
National Republican officials said yesterday that Stevens's decision to help Johnston, who serves with Stevens on the Appropriations Committee and also chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, was personal and a surprise to them. But it's no secret the GOP wants very much to see Duke's highly publicized candidacy end on Oct. 6. If Johnston receives a majority of all votes, there will be no runoff in November.
Bagert called the Stevens visit "a rather rancid political deal," based on Johnston's sponsorship of a bill to permit oil exploration on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. "Stevens attempts to invest Johnston with some semblance of Republican approval," Bagert said, "and in return, Alaska gets drilled."
A Johnston spokesman denied any such deal and Stevens was not available for comment.