NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Despite all the issues facing the person Louisiana will elect to fill an empty seat in the U.S. Senate, candidates in the race -- and a crowd outside the debate all -- focused mostly on the presence of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.
Duke just barely made the cut-off for inclusion in the debate, taking the stage with the five other candidates running to claim outgoing U.S. Sen. David Vitter's seat, and his presence at the historically black Dillard University in New Orleans.
There are 24 candidates on the ballot for Vitter's seat, with state Treasurer John Kennedy, a republican, having led the race throughout the campaign. While Duke is considered to have virtually no shot at winning the race, he garnered the support of 5.1 percent of likely voters, surpassing the required 5 percent support for participation.
Students protested Duke's appearance at the debate because of his history of racist rhetoric and resume that includes a high-ranking position in the KKK, chanting "No Duke, No K-K-K, no fascist USA" while attempting to enter the Georges Auditorium on Dillard's campus.
"His presence on our campus is not welcome, and overtly subjects the entire student body to safety risks and social ridicule," representatives of the group Socially Engaged Dillard University Students wrote in an open letter ahead of Duke's appearance.
The auditorium was kept mostly empty -- reporters watched from another room on a monitor -- while students protested outside the building at the doors of the auditorium, eventually drawing police, who pushed them back with pepper spray as they tried to force themselves inside the building.
Although moderators asked questions about actual issues affecting Louisiana and the country, nearly all of the candidates used their time to take swipes at Duke who yelled over people, claimed he has been singled out by the federal government for speaking out and lobbed racially- and ethnically-charged comments in every direction.
He also referred to reporters at CNN as "CNN Jews" as part of criticizing what he feels has been unfair reporting on accusations of sexual assault against Donald Trump. When asked, he said his problem lies with "a very strong powerful tribal group that dominates our media and dominates our international banking."
"I'm not opposed to all Jews," Duke said. "I think there's a lot of great Jews."