The Republican Party in Louisiana has had enough of David Duke.
At an upcoming meeting this weekend, the Louisiana GOP is going to vote on measures that would preclude the former Klansmen from being able to run as a Republican again.
There’s nothing Republican bigwigs can do to stop Duke’s current Senate bid. But they hope to change the bylaws to block out former felons and individuals affiliated with racist organizations, two things which are on Duke’s résumé.
The former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and previous Ku Klux Klan grand wizard formally announced his Senate run at the end of July, propelled by the success of Donald Trump’s campaign and the shooting of police officers in Dallas.
The backlash to his announcement was immediate from Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger F. Villere Jr.
“The Republican Party opposes, in the strongest possible terms, David Duke’s candidacy for any public office,” he said in a statement immediately after Duke’s announcement. “David Duke is a convicted felon and a hate-filled fraud who does not embody the values of the Republican Party.”
Duke doesn’t plan to go down without a fight. In a letter addressing the planned ousting, provided to The Daily Beast by his campaign coordinator Mike Lawrence, Duke likens his pending expulsion to the work of the Communist Party in “the Soviet Union.”
“This is the right of the people not the bosses,” Duke writes.
“Many Republican leaders have supported leftist democrats for high office against Conservative Republicans, and some have been part of the Never Trump Movement which tries to sabotage the current nominee of the Republican Party,” he adds. “This treasonous action could elect a radical leftist democrat, Hillary Clinton, who is opposed to the values and policies of the overwhelming majority of Republican voters in our state.”
Duke has frequently tried to tie his support base to the same voters who are backing the real estate mogul’s run—white voters who see their rights diminishing with the increased prevalence of immigrants in the United States. Even last week during Trump’s visit to Louisiana, Lawrence told The Daily Beast that Duke was in the area and might just bump into the alleged billionaire. They did not see each other.
When Trump first faced accusations that he was becoming intellectual bedfellows with Duke, the former grand wizard asserted that despite Trump’s claims, the real estate mogul knew who he was.
“Let him do whatever he thinks he needs to do to become president of the United States,” Duke defiantly told The Daily Beast in February of Trump’s dismissal.
Even in discussions of this impending meeting of the Louisiana GOP, Lawrence was quick to link the fates of Trump and Duke.
“Remember this is the same group that tried to hijack the Trump delegate votes for Louisiana and give to [Trump’s GOP primary rival Ted] Cruz,” Lawrence said in a text message. “They function as a totalitarian organization and done so for years.”
He, of course, is referencing how delegates were distributed to Ted Cruz during the Republican primary after Trump narrowly won the state. This was due to an organizational failure by the Trump campaign in which they failed to secure delegates to represent them on a number of convention committees.
It’s unclear just how much campaigning Duke is actually doing in the state, as Lawrence said their operations were pausing briefly so that the former state representative could help with flood relief. With the debate schedule, and participants in question, Duke’s ability to face his opponents on a public platform is also up in the air. U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy has only confirmed that he will attend one debate and hasn’t specified any further—leaving the rest of the candidates in the lurch. Although, white nationalist and former Trump delegate William Johnson is attempting to host a web-based debate independent of the organizational structures in Louisiana featuring Duke in the near future, he told The Daily Beast.
For now, the campaign is simply struggling to allow Duke to remain a Republican in the state. Lawrence said they have contacted the American Civil Liberties Union to help plead their case and he hopes it goes to the Supreme Court in the state. The ACLU has not returned a request for comment about this matter.
Republican activist Charlie Buckels previously made clear that he wants Duke to never carry the GOP mantle again.
“We have an egregious situation going on with David Duke,” Buckels, the state party’s finance chairman, told The Times-Picayune in advance of the Aug. 27 planned meeting. “He has every right to run for office, but we believe he does not have the right to run under the Republican banner.”
The GOP plan to block Duke, as it stood last month, was to change the bylaws in the state to keep convicted felons and individuals who associate with racist organizations from running on the Republican ticket. Duke went to jail in the early 2000s for filing a false tax return and using money given to him from supporters for personal expenditures including gambling trips.
The Louisiana GOP has not returned a request for comment for this article.
For Duke’s part, he claims that his affinity for Trump is the main reason why he should remain a Republican. If Trump wins, Duke is his go-to guy in the Senate.
“The opinions I hold are the same as the founders’ of this country and because of political correctness many of you have been forced to the positions of the left when it comes to massive immigration and ethnic displacement of white Americans,” the former grand wizard wrote.
“Though some of our positions may differ, I have a perfect Republican voting record, and do support 100% the Republican nominee Donald Trump who I hope and pray will defeat the horrific threat to us represented by Hillary Clinton.”
But for the local Republican leadership, Duke appears to be more of an imminent threat at the moment.