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Senate hopeful smokes pot, slams race disparities in arrests
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A political newcomer in Louisiana whose adept use of social media drew notice when he finished strong in a U.S. House race last year has posted an online video ad certain to draw more attention and, perhaps, campaign donations — it shows him smoking marijuana while decrying racial disparities in arrests for the drug.
In his first campaign ad since he announced he would run for the seat held by first-term Republican Sen. John Kennedy, Gary Chambers is seen dressed in a suit, sitting in a tufted wingback chair in an open field and puffing away on a marijuana blunt. In a voiceover, he cites statistics about the number of people and the amount of money spent enforcing marijuana laws. Chambers, who is Black, says Black people are four times as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana violations.
“Most of the people police are arresting aren’t dealers, but rather people with small amounts of pot,” Chambers adds. “Just like me.”
Chambers, a Democrat, announced his candidacy last week. He was a little-known community activist in Baton Rouge until last fall. He ran to replace then-U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, who left his 2nd District seat to join the Biden administration. With a campaign making use of social media, and with less money than his opponents, Chambers had a strong third-place showing, barely missing a runoff that was eventually won by Democrat Troy Carter of New Orleans.
“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new conversation that creates the pathway to legalize this beneficial drug, and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology,” Chambers said in a Twitter post accompanying the ad. That was followed by another post encouraging people to repost the ad and donate to his campaign.
Chambers and fellow Democrat Luke Mixon face a major challenge in trying to unseat Kennedy, who has nearly $10 million in campaign cash on hand and is running in a state that reliably sends Republicans to the Senate. Federal Election Commission reports showed Chambers with about $170 on hand after spending about $400,000 in the House race. Mixon has not yet reported finance data.
Randy Jones, a communications consultant for Chambers, said the ad was recorded in New Orleans. And he confirmed that it really was marijuana that the candidate was smoking. He said that the ad, while a surefire attention grabber, is also meant to show the candidate honestly espousing his opinions about the drug. Asked if he knew of any other political candidate who has openly smoked marijuana in an ad, he said no.
“I’m very familiar with the idea of the public official that you’d like to drink a beer with and frankly, in 2022, they’re not that different,” Jones added.
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