Duke, a freshman state representative and one-time grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, outlined a platform of cuts in state spending and no new taxes, while reviving the social agenda that has won him both fervent allies and foes across the country: slashing welfare, ending affirmative action, eliminating mandatory school busing and discouraging welfare mothers from having babies out of wedlock.
Duke's criticism of welfare recipients was not as harsh as it often was during his Senate campaign. But as governor, Duke said, he would organize a team of volunteer lawyers to repeatedly challenge federal guidelines on such issues as affirmative action.
"I believe the governor of this state has the ability and the power to make sweeping changes," said Duke.
Of his anti-affirmative action programs, Duke echoed what had virtually became a chorus in his Senate campaign: "I believe in equal rights for everyone."
Duke called his announcement yesterday "informal" and said he would make it official within 60 days. However, he acknowledged that he asked his supporters yesterday to form a campaign fund-raising committee on his behalf.
Duke cited his strong showing in November as support for his ideas, and some analysts yesterday predicted Duke's candidacy could indeed be bolstered by that performance, which came despite widespread publicity about his ties to the Ku Klux Klan.
Nearly 60 percent of white voters cast ballots for Duke. A maverick Republican who was repudiated by national GOP leaders, Duke ran against 18- year incumbent U.S. Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, a Democrat.
"People may say, 'Hey, he got 60 percent of the white vote. Sixty percent is not extremist by definition," said Susan Howell, director of the Survey Research Institute at the University of New Orleans. "I think it gives him greater legitimacy."
Howell also said the Senate race "has proven he has the potential to win. If he can get 44 percent, he can get 50 percent."
But some of Duke's strongest opponents were already preparing to campaign for his defeat. Lance Hill, the executive director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism, which organized an extensive anti-Duke effort during the Senate race, predicted that Duke's defeat - though not easy - could be less difficult in this race.
This time, Hill said, Duke will face more popular opponents who will probably be more inclined to confront him on his positions and on a range of issues.
Even so, "We intend to engage in a full-scale statewide campaign to prevent him from holding office," he said. "We believe in a multi-ethnic, multi-racial democracy, and we believe David Duke is dangerous to that."
In Louisiana, Democrats and Republicans run in the same primary, with the top two vote-getters facing each other in a runoff.