BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — As Republicans fight for control of the U.S. Senate, Democratic candidates in the reliably red state of Louisiana are waging a longshot bid to unseat popular GOP incumbent U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, who is seeking a second six-year term.

Louisiana has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 14 years, and former President Donald Trump carried it with 58% of the vote in 2020.

Kennedy, the former state treasurer has become known on Capitol Hill for his outspoken, folksy responses and quotable sound bites. He has mostly provided a safe Senate vote for Republicans and been a strong supporter of Trump, who endorsed him.

Kennedy also has raised an astounding $36 million in his reelection bid — 10 times as much as his Democratic challengers combined.

Though Kennedy is named as the clear favorite by political experts, 12 other candidates are vying for the position. Among the Democrats are activist Gary Chambers Jr. — who drew national attention earlier this year for an online video ad that shows him smoking marijuana while decrying racial disparities in drug arrests — Syrita Steib, who works to help formerly incarcerated women reenter society and Luke Mixon a commercial airline pilot. Mixon has gained the endorsement of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South. Both Mixon and the governor have military backgrounds and are described as moderate, or in some cases conservative, Democrats.

Under Louisiana’s unique open primary system, a candidate can win outright with a majority of votes. If no candidate meets that threshold, the top two, regardless of their partisan affiliations, advance to a December runoff.

If elected, Mixon said he would vote to codify the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, and which was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer. In Louisiana, a near-total abortion ban is in effect. The only exceptions are if there is substantial risk of death or impairment to the patient if they continue with the pregnancy and in the case of “medically futile” pregnancies — when the fetus has a fatal abnormality. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. Kennedy opposes abortion rights.

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