Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy draws first Democratic opponent, Luke Mixon, for 2022 race
Former U.S. Navy fighter pilot Luke Mixon of Baton Rouge is the first Democrat to announce a challenge to Louisiana Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy in next fall's election.
Mixon, 42, a political novice, enters the race as a decided underdog against a the Republican incumbent with a $4.1 million war chest in what has been an increasingly red state.
But Mixon, a commercial airline pilot who is married with two children, will try to duplicate the formula Gov. John Bel Edwards used to become the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, highlighting his military service and young family.
In fact, Mixon's campaign said his team includes political operatives who worked to get Edwards elected.
“During my time in the military, I was blessed to work with some of the bravest and most talented soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines," Mixon said in a statement. "However, I’ve also seen the consequences of irresponsible leadership. I’ve seen it abroad in our foreign policy and here in Louisiana.
“Louisiana deserves responsible leaders who represent the needs of their constituents.”
Mixon is a Bunkie native who graduated from the Naval Academy in 2001 and was a fighter pilot for 17 years with four deployments from aircraft carriers to support missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, earning three Air Medals.
He completed his Naval service as the commanding officer of the Navy’s F/A-18 squadron in New Orleans.
Mixon criticized Kennedy's record, pointing to his recent opposition to the bipartisan infrastructure bill among other votes.
"Our infrastructure is crumbling and communities are flooding, but Sen. Kennedy voted against billions of dollars to improve our roads and protect Louisiana communities from natural disasters,” Mixon said.
Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Katie Bernhardt said she supports Mixon's candidacy, although the party hasn't endorsed a candidate.
“We could not be happier to see a decorated veteran step up and answer the call to serve his country once again by fighting back against failed Sen. John Kennedy,” she said in a statement.
The election is set for Nov. 8, 2022 with officially qualifying July 20-22, 2022.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.