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Foster Campbell Is Ready to Stand Up to Washington

But first, the Senate candidate has to win Louisiana

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The 2016 election isn’t over just yet. No, that’s not a reference to Jill Stein’s doomed recount — there’s still one last Senate race up in the air in Louisiana. Since no candidate received a majority of the vote on November 8, the election has gone to a head-to-head runoff between Republican John Kennedy and Democrat Foster Campbell, to be held on December 10. Campbell joined Keepin’ It 1600 to talk his state, his campaign effort, and more.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

On the Presidential Election

Jon Favreau: What are you hearing from the people in Louisiana who you’re talking to about what they’re hoping for in terms of how their senator might act in a [Donald] Trump administration? Are the people you’re talking to, are they worried about it? Are they hoping for cooperation? What are you saying to them about the results of the election as you look forward to next week?

Foster Campbell: Trump won Louisiana quite handily, but the people in Louisiana want somebody that can work with them when he’s right, and stand up against him when he’s wrong. I’ve been doing that all my life as a public servant and … I have been on the side of the people. I voted for consumers. So when he wants to build roads and bridges, I’m all about that. I’m all for that. But if he wants to privatize Social Security and he wants to give a voucher [instead of] Medicare, I can’t be for that at all. I’ll fight that tooth and toenail.

I do not want to give Wall Street all the people’s money and let the people invest in Wall Street. What happens if you have another 2008 [recession]? You’re talking about a bailout of General Motors, you’re going to be bailing out people. A total catastrophe. We don’t want that. I don’t trust Wall Street to handle people’s money. I just don’t do that.

How Trump’s Cabinet Won’t “Drain the Swamp”

J.F.: Speaking of that, what do you think of some of the picks that Trump has made for his Cabinet, specifically thinking of his soon-to-be treasury secretary [Steven Mnuchin], who’s a longtime Goldman Sachs banker?

F.C.: I’m not fond about that. I think Goldman Sachs did great damage to this country, [and to] the whole world. So I don’t think I’d be for anybody from Goldman Sachs or any of those big banks like that. I’d like to see some other people looked at. We had to bail out Goldman Sachs and they were fined a lot for doing some unethical things. So I don’t know about anybody from that company that I’d be real enthused about.

I know one that I’m not enthused about. I don’t know if he’s up for an appointment, but we have a little guy down here that was governor of Louisiana named Bobby Jindal, who wrecked our state. Wrecked it. Broke our state. I know damn well I’m not for anything that Bobby Jindal wants to serve at, because if he does, if he could bring the damage to America that he did in Louisiana, it would be catastrophic. He absolutely wrecked our state. He will go down as the worst governor we’ve ever had in the history of Louisiana. And people in our state don’t want him to have his hands on anything that affects their pocketbook, because he broke Louisiana.

How Campbell’s Grassroots Campaign Has Grown

Dan Pfeiffer: Since the election, have you seen any sort of change in support for your race from people outside of Louisiana? A lot of Democrats are looking for something to do to deal with whatever emotional problems they’re having with Trump winning. Have you seen sufficient support from Democrats wanting to come help you in some way, in donations or volunteers or something like that?

F.C.: Absolutely. We’re raising money every day. We still need money. We’re running this campaign first class. We’ve got people from all over this country helping us … I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart the people who [have] called in and tried to help us from all across America. You do not know how much I appreciate it. I’ll never forget you when I’m in the Senate. I know that I’m going to represent the people. You don’t have to worry about me selling out to the special interests because I’m not in that kind of business. I’m on the people’s side.

How Campbell Hopes to Win

J.F.: What’s your pitch to the undecided voter? The voter who’s on the fence might be either an independent or someone who votes Republican, obviously like you said, Trump won the state pretty handily. What’s your pitch to that voter?

F.C.: My pitch is real simple. This guy I’m running against been everything but a Baptist preacher. He was a liberal for a long time. He was a person that supported pro-choice. Now he’s pro-life. He’s been for affirmative action. Now he’s against it. Now he’s to the right of Newt Gingrich. He’s been everything.

Here’s a guy wearing a $1,000 suit on one of his commercials walking down a dirt road. Now how crazy is that? Have you ever seen anybody with a $1,000 suit on, walking down a dirt road in the country? That’s how out of touch he is. He has criticized this governor we have now, a Democratic governor. He’s criticized him on everything he could do. We finally got us a good governor elected in Louisiana, one of the first ones in the South to be a Democrat [in some time]. He beat David Vitter, [who] needed beating terribly, and this guy’s criticized him every step of the way. So this guy can do anything. He’s been on all sides.

Huey Long was a great populist from Louisiana. He had a brother named Earl. Earl Long was just as much a populist as Huey, who was the governor of the state. And about 15 years ago or so, I went in John Kennedy’s office, and he had a picture of Earl Long on the wall and I said, “John, why’ve you got Earl Long’s picture on the wall?” [He said,] “Oh, Foster, that’s the new politics. It’s all about black folks and Hispanics in Louisiana. That’s the new politics.” So he’s gone from Earl Long to the right hand of Newt Gingrich. So what do you say about a guy like that? You know, it just depends on what side of the bed he gets up in the morning. He’s just a straight flip-flopper. Everybody knows that. Phony as he can be.

And that’s what we’re running against. Two years ago, we ran [for public service commissioner] the same day as [Democratic then-Senator] Mary Landrieu [ran for reelection]. She got 42 percent of the people in north Louisiana to vote for her against a Republican, and I got 62 percent to vote for me against a Republican. So I get a lot of crossover votes. And we’re going to get a lot of crossover votes. And if the African American people go out to vote, we’re gonna win. And [the Republicans] know that. And they’re worried about it.

Louisiana Faces Unique Environmental Issues

F.C.: John Kennedy’s record as being one thing one day and the next thing another day is hurting him, and people know that I’ve been very consistent. I’ve been against payday-loan companies. I have been a real sharp critic of the major oil companies in this state who have owned the politicians from all the way back. They’ve owned them all. I’m the one who says that if they’ve torn up our coast, they oughta fix it. And Mr. Kennedy doesn’t believe in that. He doesn’t believe in science. He says there’s no such thing as global warming. I say there is, along with 19 out of 20 most renowned scientists in the world. Even the pope says we’ve got global warming. And we do. Made by man. And even Mr. Trump now, he was against it. Now he’s for it. So we all know that. But Mr. Kennedy won’t admit it. Because he’s in [the] shirt pocket [of] these corporations up and down the Mississippi River who do a hell of a lot of polluting and don’t want to pay for it. That’s it basically. And they want to tell you that it’s not man-made. That this has been happening for years. And everybody knows that it is. And we’ve got to do something about it.

Louisiana’s at the crossroads down here. We’ve lost 500,000 to 800,000 acres of land from coastal erosion. And we know that drilling out in the Gulf of Mexico has caused a lot of it. We’re not asking the oil companies to pay for it all, we’re just asking them to pay for the part that they’ve torn up. And the rest of these guys down here, these politicians are all lapdogs. They’re in the pocket of the oil companies, including Mr. Kennedy, who doesn’t want them to pay for it. Hell, I want them to pay for it.

If someone drove through your backyard in a truck and they tore it up, well, you’d ask them to pay for it. But here in Louisiana, we’ve got these little tap-dancing politicians down here that make all the excuses in the world why the oil companies shouldn’t have to pay for it. Bobby Jindal, David Vitter, none of them wanted the oil companies [to pay]. They want the United States government to pay for coastal erosion, but the United States government didn’t tell the oil companies to drill the wells in the Gulf of Mexico, where they’re making millions and millions of dollars, which I’m all for. But Louisiana needs some help fixing our coast, and it doesn’t always have to come from the federal government. Ask the people who caused the problem to pay for the damage. That’s the common sense way. But you can’t do that in Louisiana because all these little tap-dancing politicians through the years have been in the pocket of the oil companies — and they still are! Including the one that’s got a big crown on his head right now: John Kennedy. He’s absolutely in their pocket.

Campbell’s Plan to Stand Up to Washington

D.P: When you get to the Senate, what will be some of the first things you want to do? The policies you want to push?

F.C.: One of ’em I’d love to push, this would be my dream: I’d like to make a few speeches up there, and I’d like to tell these guys who live like kings that, guess what? You’re not a king. You ought to be more available to people than you are. The next thing is that you ought to have a 10-year moratorium on going to work [as a lobbyist] right out of the Senate instead of two years. You also shouldn’t be able to serve on [company] boards. It’s almost like they’re getting a signing bonus from the New Orleans Saints or the Dallas Cowboys, once they get out of the Senate, they serve two years, [then] they go to work for some company [and] they don’t ever come back to Louisiana. They live in Washington and make gobs of money. They leave the state of Louisiana [to go to Washington] with an average salary and they come back millionaires. How does that happen? It is sickening to see some of these people going to work, making millions of dollars a year sitting on these boards that they know nothing about. I mean, they put them on the board for no reason, [but] there’s a reason. It’s because they’ve been cozy with ’em for the duration that they were in the Senate or the House.

You name ’em, we’ve got ’em. They’re up there. They don’t live in Louisiana, they live in Washington. And I’m also a real proponent of equal pay for women and I’m super strong for raising the minimum wage. People in Louisiana are poor and there’s really no reason for it other than the politicians have sold us out. With all the oil and gas and the resources we have, we should be a wealthy state. But we’re a poor state pretty much neck and neck with New Mexico and Mississippi. How can Louisiana, with all the oil and gas, all the resources, hundreds of miles of pipeline, the Mississippi River, how in the world could we ever be compared to Mississippi? It’s a shame. Because we’ve been sold down the river, no pun intended, by big politicians who live in Washington, D.C., and come home at Christmas to see their friends and tell them how much they like seeing ’em, but by the way, we’ve got to go back up to Washington to live.

So, that’s a sad state of affairs. By the way, Kennedy’s against raising the minimum wage, he’s against equal pay for women, he doesn’t think there’s any global warming, he doesn’t want to make the oil companies pay for the damage [to the Louisiana coast]. I mean, we are, as two people, as much not alike as black and white. Salt and pepper. We have nothing in common more than we’re both human and both breathing air. Other than that, we’re not alike.