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La. State Officials Battling It Out for Senate Seat

State Treasurer John Kennedy (search) launched a nine-city tour Tuesday in his race for the U.S. Senate, while U.S. Rep. David Vitter (search) campaigned for the same post with some help from a national Republican heavyweight.

Kennedy branded himself as a Washington outsider as he began his tour in Baton Rouge.

"I'm from Louisiana. I'm not from Washington. The Washington insiders don't like me," Kennedy, D-Madisonville, said trying to separate himself from two of his competitors for the Senate seat: Vitter, R-Metairie, and Rep. Chris John (search), D-Crowley.

Later, in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, Vitter of Metairie joined former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on a Mardi Gras float at a convention hall. They threw strands of red, white and blue beads to the crowd estimated at about 450.

Giuliani, widely admired for his poise and leadership in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Vitter's election to the Senate is important to keeping Republicans in control of that body.

"Who you elect for the Senate for Louisiana has a very big impact for the rest of America," said Giuliani, who also was to accompany Vitter for an appearance in Lafayette.

Vitter, John and Kennedy are running for the post being vacated by U.S. Sen. John Breaux (search), a Democrat, retiring after 18 years in the Senate.

John also plans campaign events throughout the state in coming weeks but is staying in Washington most of this week for congressional votes, his campaign spokesman said. John did issue a policy statement on homeland security Tuesday, citing the need for more security screeners and better research and technology for airport security, as well as more spending on security for railroads, public transit and oil and gas pipelines.

Breaux has thrown his support to John, as have most of Louisiana's statewide elected officials and several Democratic powerbrokers in Washington. GOP leaders, both in Louisiana and Washington, have closed ranks behind Vitter, the sole Republican candidate in the race. State Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, also is running.

While most polls show Vitter in the lead, the same surveys show John and Kennedy in a tight race to take the other December runoff spot. The primary election is Nov. 2.

Kennedy said he expects his run outside of the Washington political establishment to boost him over John. He pointed to Louisiana's last race for U.S. Senate when national Republicans repeatedly traveled to the state to help former Elections Commissioner Suzanne Terrell in her failed bid to replace U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

"Two years ago, Washington Republicans tried to pick Louisiana's United States senator. They failed. Today, Washington Democrats are trying to pick the next U.S. senator. They'll fail, too," Kennedy said.

As part of his campaign platform, Kennedy is proposing to give businesses 25 percent of the federal income taxes paid each year by its newly hired employees in a bid to promote job creation and business expansion. He said the proposal was modeled after similar state proposals in Kentucky, North Carolina and New Jersey.

He is pushing for an exemption for the first $10,000 of tip income from federal income taxes, saying that should be treated as gifts and calling it a "middle class tax cut."

Kennedy also said if Congress refuses to provide Louisiana with more of the money from the annual royalties in oil and gas production off the state's coast, then Louisiana should sue the federal government. He said Louisiana's roads, bridges and other infrastructure make the offshore drilling possible and the state should receive better compensation to help repair its coast.