NEW YORK (Dec. 6)
David Duke, the charismatic white supremacist who dismayed Jews and civil rights leaders earlier this year with his successful run for the Louisiana state legislature, has announced he is throwing his hat into the ring for the U.S. Senate.
Duke, 39, a former imperial wizard of the Imperial Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, announced Monday in New Orleans that he will run next year as a Republican candidate for the Senate seat now held by Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, a Democrat.
He said he would seek the Republican Party’s endorsement, but would run without it if necessary. The party is holding open caucuses throughout the state on Saturday and is expected to endorse a candidate on Jan. 13.
He was also reported to be considering a run for the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives now held by Rep. Bob Livingston, a Republican.
Duke exchanged his Klan robes for the leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of White People in 1979. He now claims his Nazi sympathies are part of his past.
But in early March, less than a month after winning the state legislature seat, Duke appeared at a convention of the neo-Nazi Populist Party in Chicago.
There, standing by the side of a known neo-Nazi, he delivered a speech affirming his support for the Populists, on whose slate he ran for president in 1988.
The World Jewish Congress reported a connection between Duke and Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, who has been internationally ostracized for concealing his wartime service in a German army unit that committed atrocities in Greece and Yugoslavia.
‘GROUNDSWELL OF SUPPORT’
In a “Dear Friend” letter Duke wrote and signed in the NAAWP News of December 1986, he boasted that he was “even able to personally meet and interview the president of Austria, Kurt Waldheim, who has been a victim of a vicious Zionist smear campaign.”
Daniel Levitas, director of the Atlanta-based Center for Democratic Renewal, which monitors racist activity in the United States, said Duke has great popular appeal.
“There is a groundswell of support (for Duke) in Louisiana. His name recognition is as great or greater than the current governor of Louisiana, Buddy Roemer,” a Democrat.
Duke is seeking mainstream Republic support. Last Friday, he sent out a statewide mailing, providing two petitions for his supporters to sign and send to President Bush and Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater.
The Republican National Committee censured Duke in February. But the state Republican Party failed to do the same when a motion was presented in September at its central committee meeting.
Elizabeth Rickey, a member of the Louisiana State Republican Central Committee, paid a visit in May to Duke’s legislative office in Metairie, La., a suburb of New Orleans.
She and her colleagues were able to obtain through Duke’s mail-order book business, Americana Book, copies of racist and revisionist literature claiming the Holocaust never happened, including a publication called “Did Six Million Really Die?”
On Wednesday, Rickey joined in the formation of a coalition to combat Duke’s electoral bid. The bipartisan and non-denominational group is called the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism. It is composed of religious and political leaders.
Irwin Suall, fact-finding director for the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said, “As far as we’re concerned, he continues to represent the racist and anti-Semitic underworld, and his appearance of respectability and mainstream politics is pure deception.”