David Duke, former KKK leader, running for Congress
The former Ku Klux Klan leader and one-term Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives said in a video announcing his candidacy Friday.
BY EMMA MARGOLIN, NBC News
(NBC News) - It's official: David Duke is running for Congress.
The former Ku Klux Klan leader and one-term Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives said in a video announcing his candidacy Friday that he believes in "equal rights for all, and respect for all Americans."
"However," he added, "what makes me different is I also demand respect for the rights and the heritage of European Americans."
Duke will seek an open seat vacated by Republican Sen. David Vitter, who announced last year that he would not be seeking re-election. More than a dozen other candidates have also signed up to replace the retiring senator.
Initially, Duke had said he was leaning toward mounting a challenge against Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, who once described himself as "David Duke without the baggage." But apparently, Duke now feels there's room for the both of them in Washington.
In his announcement video, Duke pledged to "stop the massive immigration and ethnic cleansing of the people whose forefathers created America." He declared, "We cannot have free trade without fair trade." And he said he was "overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues that [he's] championed for years."
Duke founded a KKK chapter in 1974, and won a seat in the Louisiana legislature 15 years later. He ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 1990 and for Louisiana governor in 1991. Ex-convict Edwin Edwards, a Democrat, beat Duke in that gubernatorial election with the famous slogan, "Vote for the crook, it's important."
Duke is now also a convicted felon, having pleaded guilty in 2002 to bilking his supporters and cheating on his taxes. After spending a year in federal prison, he later denied any wrongdoing.
Duke's announcement comes as Louisiana grapples with racial tensions in the wake of a police killing of an unarmed black man, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and the shooting of several law enforcement officers in the same city weeks later.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) said it would not support Duke's candidacy.
"Louisiana voters will be able to choose from several Republican Senate candidates who will have a great impact on the Bayou State and the future of our country. David Duke is not one of them," said the NRSC in a statement. "He will not have the support of the NRSC under any circumstance."