Blunt-Smoking, Confederate Flag-Burning Senate Candidate Is Raking in Big Money

Gary Chambers Jr. has raked in nearly $600,000 since announcing his bid for U.S. Senate in Louisiana last month, his campaign said in a statement Monday, according to Politico.

The average donation, according to the campaign, was $38, with most donors being service workers and educators.

Chambers’ long-shot bid to unseat Republican Sen. John Kennedy received national attention for his first ad, released Jan. 18, in which the North Baton Rouge native smokes from giant blunt to make a point about cannabis-related incarceration. “I hope this ad works to not only destigmatize the use of marijuana, but also forces a new conversation that creates the pathway to legalize this beneficial drug, and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology,” Chambers wrote in a tweet accompanying the ad.

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Under state law, those in possession of small amounts of marijuana in Louisiana can be fined up to $100 rather than be incarcerated, thanks to a decriminalization bill signed into law last year by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Chambers followed the ad up last week with one in which he lit a Confederate battle flag on fire. Chambers explained in the ad that he supports legislation targeting racial inequities in his state and nationally, like accelerating the compassionate release of federal prisoners aged 60 and over, changing the federal judiciary, and creating national accountability standards for police. “Here in Louisiana and all over the South, Jim Crow never really left,” he says in the ad.

Chambers has run for office before, having campaigned last year for a congressional seat after Rep. Cedric Richmond resigned to take a job in the Biden administration. He finished a close third behind two other Democrats in the primary. “We missed the runoff by about 1,500 votes, and we joke among each other that if we’d had another hundred thousand dollars or another week, we would have made it,” Chambers told Rolling Stone in an interview last month.

“Structurally in campaigns, people tend to spend about 70 percent of their budget on TV, radio, and direct mail, right?” he added. “We spent about $30,000 on TV, $10,000 on radio and didn’t send out a single piece of direct mail — and we came within 1,500 votes of making the runoff, which meant we built one of the strongest grassroots campaigns Louisiana’s ever seen.”

Like the 2021 congressional special election, the race for Senate involves a nonpartisan primary system in which the top two candidates — regardless of party — advance to the general election. A candidate can avoid the general election altogether by receiving a majority of the vote. In 2016, Republican Sen. John Kennedy comfortably beat his Democratic challenger in the general election by more than 20 percent.

Chambers, or whichever Democrat wins the largest share of the primary vote, will be a big underdog to unseat Kennedy in November. FEC data shows Chambers raised more than $400,000 in 2021, before his first campaign ad was released. Kennedy, however, raised more than $10 million over the same period, and altogether has around $18 million in the bank.

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