Huge turnout as qualifying closes in U.S. Senate race

24 candidates qualify for Vitter's seat

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Louisiana voters have a massive field of candidates to consider in the race to fill outgoing Sen. David Vitter's seat.

The choices include two sitting congressmen, a former congressman, a state treasurer and a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

An open seat usually attracts a lot of candidates, but some say this Senate race is over the top.

"With a field this large, maybe rather than debates we can have a football scrimmage," said FOX 8 legal analyst Mike Sherman.

The three-day qualifying period closed tonight with a big field of 24 candidates signing up. The list includes nine Republicans, seven Democrats and two Libertarians, and though the seat is currently held by outgoing Republican Sen. David Vitter, in a red state, some say there are no guarantees.

"I don't think anyone has a lock on anything, but the advantage is on the Republican party," said frequent GOP strategist James Hartman

"Louisiana is typically a very safe seat for Republicans, but as John Bel Edwards showed us, elections can lead to strange consequences," said Sherman.

The candidates include state Treasurer John Kennedy,  current Republican congressmen Charles Boustany and John Fleming, who may have a leg up.

"The incumbent advantage is huge, very difficult to beat an incumbent representative or senator," said Sherman.

The race may be an early test for the governor's coattails. He has endorsed Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell.

"I think his endorsement is a good endorsement, and I think he's popular," said frequent Democratic strategist Cheron Brylski.

"Governor Edwards' election victory last fall was not a Democratic mandate, it was a referendum on his opponent," said Hartman.

On Friday, former KKK leader David Duke qualified, and he's already getting national attention and a pledge from state GOP chair Roger Villere to oppose his candidacy.

"For a Republican party trying to diversify itself, having a former grand wizard of the KKK is probably not something they're looking forward to. I think that's why we saw a rebuke so quickly," said Sherman.

Though it's been more than 20 years, Duke, a former state representative, landed in runoffs for Senate and the 1991 governor's race, and went on to lose.

"The current political environment has renewed some support for David Duke," Brylski said.

Strategists say it would be wise for the parties to make an early decision as to which candidates they will support.

"Very quickly we're going to see a small group rise from this field," said Sherman.

And all agree that rise will be driven by money, personality, and name recognition. Sherman said the interest in the Louisiana senate race may be driven in part by a red-hot presidential race.

The Senate election will be held Nov. 8, the same day we elect a new president. The runoff  is set for December.

Copyright 2016 WVUE. All rights reserved.