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La. Senate candidate Gary Chambers burns a Confederate flag in his new campaign ad

Gary Chambers Jr., pictured in January 2021, is running for one of Louisiana's seats in the U.S. Senate. He's made headlines with his first two campaign ads.
Melinda Deslatte
Gary Chambers Jr., pictured in January 2021, is running for one of Louisiana's seats in the U.S. Senate. He's made headlines with his first two campaign ads.

Gary Chambers and his infamous lighter are back.

The longtime community activist and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate made headlines last month with a campaign video in which he smoked a blunt while advocating for the legalization of marijuana.

His latest ad is also a talker. The minute-long spot, titled "Scars and Bars," shows Chambers burning a Confederate flag while discussing — and symbolically destroying — the legacy of Jim Crow.

The ad opens with Chambers holding an American flag and quoting the Constitution, then replacing it with a Confederate flag as he remarks that its remnants linger in much of the South. He says the right of Black Americans to vote and participate in democracy is under attack, calling gerrymandered districts "a byproduct of the Confederacy."

"Our system isn't broken," he says at one point, setting the flag aflame. "It's designed to do exactly what it's doing, which is producing measurable inequity."

The ad's release coincides with the state legislature's ongoing special session to redraw the state's political lines, in which activists are campaigning for an expansion of majority-Black districts.

In fact, Chambersled a rally for that very cause on the steps of the Louisiana Capitol steps on Wednesday morning, according to the Daily Advertiser.

Lawmakers will have until Feb. 20 to redraw the state's congressional districts as well as those of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Public Service Commission, state Supreme Court, and state House and Senate, reports member station WWNO in New Orleans.

The public is calling for lawmakers to draw congressional districts that better represent the state's Black population: Census data show that roughly one-third of the state's population identifies as Black, but only one of the state's six congressional districts has a majority-minority population.

Creating a second majority-Black district would likely result in the loss of a safe Republican seat in Congress, which WWNO points out is a tough sell for the state's GOP-led legislature.

In the ad, Chambers notes the high rates of poverty and disenfranchisement among Black Americans as he watches the flag burn.

"It's time to burn what remains of the Confederacy down," he says. "I do believe the South will rise again, but this time it'll be on our terms."

Chambers faces an uphill battle in his challenge to replace U.S. Sen. John Kennedy — the 70-year-old Republican incumbent — as the junior senator from Louisiana. But these short clips could provide a major boost in visibility, with his marijuana video racking up millions of views and considerable media attention.

The viral campaign ads, while novel in substance, employ tactics that political campaigns have been relying on for decades.

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman
Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.