NEW ORLEANS - The top six candidates running for Louisiana's soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat are meeting for their last debate ahead of next week's election, at Dillard University in New Orleans.
But Wednesday's televised debate is drawing attention mainly for the sixth contender who will be on stage at the historically black university: white supremacist David Duke.
Duke narrowly reached the 5 percent polling benchmark set by Raycom Media for participation in the debate, to be broadcast across most of Louisiana.
The former Ku Klux Klan leader has lagged in independent polling and isn't expected to reach the December runoff.
Major contenders in the Senate race are three Republicans, U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, U.S. Rep. John Fleming and Treasurer John Kennedy; and two Democrats, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and lawyer Caroline Fayard.
More than two dozen people are seeking to fill the seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter.
A tight knot of people around one entrance to the auditorium suddenly scattered, some yelling that they had been "maced" or pepper sprayed.
That outburst was quickly followed by several protesters attempting to force their way in through an open door. They were fought back by police.
Some protesters tried to tug others away as the confrontation became more physical. Police eventually were able to shut the door.
There were no apparent injuries. Some protesters were seen using bottled water to flush their eyes.
Duke suggested his fellow Republican and the race's front-runner, state Treasurer John Kennedy, tried to raise taxes on homeowners and that all five of his competitors on the stage were "beholden to big money."
Kennedy replied by calling Duke a "convicted liar" and cited Duke's prison number for a felony conviction.
Though he pleaded guilty to cheating on his taxes, Duke claimed he was "targeted by the government." When the debate moderator tried to interrupt Duke, Duke started yelling that he was a "typical media hack."
As the debate continued, protesters outside the building shouted, objecting to Duke's appearance on the stage.
The last debate of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race has ended, with the presence of white supremacist David Duke hijacking much of the discussion on the stage.
Democratic lawyer Caroline Fayard called Duke a "snake." Republican Treasurer John Kennedy called Duke a liar. Republican U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany and John Fleming largely tried to ignore Duke as they sought to distinguish themselves from the major competitors.
Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell said Fayard has been lying about him as she tried to connect him to Duke. Campbell said he has nothing in common with Duke except both men were "breathing."
Duke trashed the debate questions and the moderators.
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