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After going viral on social media last month for smoking marijuana in the first ad of his U.S. Senate campaign, Baton Rouge native Gary Chambers Jr. is planning to introduce himself and his policy platform across the state.
GARY CHAMBERS: I definitely think there's a threat to democracy happening, and I don't think we're taking it serious enough. People wonder how did we end up in a civil war? I think when you look at the actions of what took place January 6, that's how America ended up fractured before.
Every 37 seconds, someone is arrested for possession of marijuana. Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana laws than white people. Most of the people police are arresting aren't dealers but rather people with small amounts of pot just like me.
I'm Gary Chambers, candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana. We knew that we wanted to be a part of the national conversation and wanted to figure out how do we cut through the noise? We thought we'd get a couple million views on the video, that it would give us the opportunity to have some conversation. I don't think any of us was wise enough to know that it would do as much as it did, but we are grateful for it because it has given us the opportunity to really talk about the condition of Louisiana and then what's possible because of the demographics in this state.
The thing is for us now to continue to build on it and spread a message that gives a clear picture of where the state is. And so if I got to smoke a blunt to kick these facts, I'll keep doing so.
I think I'd describe myself as a family man, community oriented, focused on how we get results and change for communities all over this country.
I had intended to up here and talk about how racist Robert E. Lee was, but I'm going to talk about you, Connie, sitting over there shopping while we're talking about Robert E. Lee. This is a picture of you shopping while we're talking about racism and history in this country.
So I've been an advocate almost a decade now and helped move a host of issues from police reform here in Baton Rouge to getting an emergency room opened in north Baton Rouge after they closed two hospitals, helping to fight to keep a zoo in north Baton Rouge, and now there's a $300 million investment happening not far from the community I grew up in.
And so my advocacy has been very in your face and direct about the issues. I don't beat around the bush, and it has worked for me. We tried that nice stuff. It don't work. You've got to be very direct with people. You've got to know your stuff, talk the numbers. You may not like how I said something, but you can't argue with the fact that what I said is the truth. And I think it's important that we are always leveraging the truth and the data in order to process the progress that we hope to gain for people.
- What did you think of this talk of pardons for January 6 defendants?
JOHN KENNEDY: I think this is America and everybody's entitled to his opinion.
GARY CHAMBERS: I think John Kennedy is dangerous to the whole country. I think the rhetoric that he spews is deeply problematic, and election fraud is just really a dog whistle to a certain element of people to say that the votes of certain communities are invalid. That's not a new tactic. That's not something that we haven't seen. As a matter of fact, Reconstruction, when they try to stop all of the Black senators who won US Senate races from being seated, they used the phrases of election fraud and election tampering. And so it's a method rooted in racism that conservatives use as a dog whistle to talk to their constituents that they know they can rile up with that type of bigotry.
Well, I would say to any voter in the state of Louisiana that what we tried hasn't worked. We're ranked number 50 in the nation, which means we rank last. We rank 50 in crime, 49 in opportunity, 49 in the economy, 46 in health care, 48 in education, 49 in environmental quality, 47 in infrastructure. You name it, we're at the bottom of the list. We are the first and the worst.
And so if the words of Trump rang true to some people, what have you got to lose? This is a winnable race. The demographics of Louisiana are similar to Georgia. I think that that needs to be highlighted.
From a national perspective, the conversation is always that Louisiana or Southern states can't win. But the truth is the Blackest states in America are in the South. The Democratic Party's base is Black America. The thing we need from the national perspective is for people to stop counting us out as if this isn't winnable. Five years ago, nobody would have thought that Raphael Warnock would be the senator from Georgia. I think that that's possible for Louisiana if we do the work.