Duke first ran for the Louisiana State Senate as a Democrat from a Baton Rouge district in 1975
. In 1979, he ran as a Democrat for the 10th District Senate seat and finished second in a three-candidate race with 9,897 votes (26 percent). Duke allegedly conducted a direct-mail appeal in 1987, using the identity and mailing-list of the Georgia Forsyth County Defense League without permission. League officials described it as a fund-raising scam.
 1988 Democratic Presidential Campaign
In 1988, Duke ran initially in the Democratic presidential primaries
. His campaign failed to make much of an impact, with the one notable exemption of winning the little known New Hampshire Vice-Presidential primary. Duke, having failed to gain much traction as a Democrat, then successfully sought the Presidential nomination of the Populist Party. He appeared on the ballot for President in eleven states and was a write-in candidate in some other states, some with Trenton Stokes of Arkansas for Vice President, and on other state ballots with Floyd Parker for Vice President. He received just 47,047 votes, for 0.04 percent of the combined, national popular vote.
Duke's views prompted some of his critics (including Republicans) to form the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism, which directed media attention to Duke's statements of hostility to blacks and Jews.
Despite repudiation by the Republican Party
, Duke ran for Louisiana Governor in 1991.
The interest group, the Louisiana Coalition against Racism and Nazism, rallied against the election of Duke as governor. Among its leaders was Beth Rickey, a moderate member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee and a Ph.D. student at Tulane University, who began to follow Duke to record his speeches and expose what she saw as instances of racist and neo-Nazi remarks.