Gary Chambers lit up the internet on Tuesday with a campaign ad focused on one issue: the injustice of non-violent marijuana arrests. Sitting in a leather chair in a field near New Orleans’ City Park, the Louisiana Senate candidate puffed on a massive blunt while a voiceover rattled off statistics on the disproportionate number of Black and brown people incarcerated for low-level, non-violent drug crimes. The ad made a splash, and despite facing long odds in his race to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. John Kennedy, Chambers is clearly running on far more than smoke.
Chambers grew up in North Baton Rouge — on the Black side of town, as he says it — watching his middle class community slowly bleed resources. An ordained minister, Chambers says he has a “God given ability to speak truth to power,” so he decided to do something about it. In June 2020, at a school board meeting to change the name of the former Robert E. Lee high school, Chambers flexed that ability, calling out the school board member who lobbied to keep the Civil War general and slave owner’s name on the school for online shopping during the meeting, before launching into a fiery speech about the legacy of racism that went viral online.