State Rep. David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader elected to the Louisiana Legislature, promised to concentrate on the state's financial problems now that efforts to bar him from office have failed.
But at his inaugural session of the state House of Representatives on Wednesday, Duke heard warnings from black lawmakers that he will be under close scrutiny."I'm here to put you on notice that not only black folks here in Louisiana, but black folks all over he country will be watching you," said Rep. Diana Bajoie of New Orleans.
"We are resolved and committed to make sure that racism will not become the order of the day," Rep. C.D. Jones of Monroe.
Two black legislators walked out as Duke was sworn in.
Duke, 38, a former grand wizard of the Klan, left the group in 1980 but remains president of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, which he describes as a civil rights group for everyone.
He beamed and waved before taking the oath of office, administered by House Speaker Jim Dimos, to represent a suburban New Orleans district that is 99.6 percent white.
"I want to allay fears that I will be divisive or a problem in this great body," Duke told his new colleagues. "I truly believe when we took the pledge of allegiance this morning and we said justice for all, I believe in that for America."
Duke was sworn in after the House turned aside a challenge on the grounds that he was not a legal resident of the district he represents. Earlier, state courts rejected a similar attempt to keep him out.
In remarks after his swearing in, Duke said, "I love this country and I love this state. And I'm anxious for the media to go away and to get down to solving Louisiana's problems."
Later in the day, Duke met with fellow members of the GOP legislative caucus to discuss changes in the state's tax system - the subject of the 15-day special legislative session that convened Wednesday.
Duke defeated fellow Republican John Treen in a special runoff election Saturday. Treen received the backing of President Bush and former President Ronald Reagan during the campaign.