And here I bet some of you thought the 2013 elections were over, didn’t you? Well, they were for the most part, but given the variations in election laws and special circumstances from state to state, there’s always some action brewing someplace. In this case, the congressional seat in Louisiana’s 5th district was open due to Republican Rodney Alexander’s resignation earlier this year to take a job with the Jindal administration. That required a special election, which began earlier this fall. Because of Louisiana’s somewhat unique election structure and the fact that nobody got more than 50% of the vote, they had a runoff between two Republicans, and now we have a winner.
Vance McAllister, a political newcomer with the backing of the popular “Duck Dynasty” TV family, was elected Saturday as Louisiana’s newest member of Congress. McAllister, who largely self-funded his campaign, beat establishment candidate Neil Riser, a state senator, in a special runoff election for the vacant 5th District seat.
McAllister, a businessman with multiple companies, ran as a political outsider, capitalizing on frustration with politicians and Congress. As a point of pride during the campaign, he said he’d never been to Washington.
Riser, a funeral home owner in the Senate since 2008, campaigned on his experience in the Legislature and with the support of tea party groups.
The real wrinkle in this story is not that a Republican won the seat (again). It’s a large, heavily rural, conservative district. The two candidates agreed on nearly all the issues, specifically support for gun owners’ rights, lower taxes, opposition to abortion, and the rest of the platform planks you’d expect to see. But it seems that McAllister “swerved left” in one area, voicing support for having Louisiana jump on board with expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. Riser hammered him over this during the campaign.
But since McAllister won by a convincing margin, the Left was quick like a bunny to show that America hates the Tea Party, even in the very conservative South, and it’s a new day dawning.
McAllister had spent a half-million of his own dollars, received endorsements from the high profile stars of the TV show Duck Dynasty, and while he supported Obamacare repeal, he also said that as long as Obamacare was going to be law, Louisiana should participate in its Medicaid expansion, because it would deliver health insurance to tens of thousands of poor Louisianans…
As NRCC chairman Greg Walden says, Obamacare is a political hurricane and will dominate the 2014 elections. The GOP’s problem is that it doesn’t know which way the wind is blowing.
So, is that what this means? Did Louisiana’s conservative voters abandon the anti-Obamacare candidate and embrace the “settled law of the land” in McAllister’s win? You might not want to be so quick to draw that conclusion. Remember those “odd” election laws in Louisiana I mentioned earlier? Politico has a buried nugget which may shed some light on the question. (Emphasis mine.)
Running in an impoverished part of the state, McAllister competed aggressively for blue-collar voters. During the closing days of the race he aired a TV ad spotlighting an endorsement from Willie Robertson, a star in the popular A&E reality series “Duck Dynasty,” which is about a family-run duck-call business. And late in the race, McAllister gambled big by tacking to the left and expressing support for certain planks of Obamacare – a move designed to win over low-income voters and Democrats, who were allowed to vote in the primary and runoff.
There’s the fly in the ointment we were looking for. The Democrats may be well outnumbered in the 5th district, but there are still quite a few of them. And their candidate didn’t manage to garner enough votes to make it into the runoff. So all of those Democrat voters were able to vote in the runoff even though there were two Republicans competing. Who do you suppose they voted for?
In other words, I wouldn’t read too much into this special election. This is just the way the Louisiana election system is set up, and it frequently produces some odd results.