Down on the Bayou in my home state of Louisiana, there’s a feeding frenzy going on. Now, if you live in the state but have been on vacation, say in the Ukraine, you may not be aware that the Fifth District Congressman Vance McAllister is in a real pickle and has created quite a mess for himself. The vultures from his own republican party smell blood and they’re already pouncing.
McAllister has been in office only a few months, having won a special election when then incumbent Rodney Alexander resigned to take a state job of Veteran’s Affairs secretary. McAllister was an outsider, running against the republican establishment. This was no easy accomplishment, considering his candidacy was opposed by virtually every republican office holder, including the governor, the state Republican Party chairman, and all the other Louisiana republican members of congress. McAllister beat them all and won, going head to head against the establishment candidate, a local state senator.
But the new guy on the block got caught on camera, in his local congressional office no less, kissing one of his assistants. No, not just a kiss on the cheek or even a quick peck on the lips. Viewers of the video witnessed the congressman’s kiss going on and on and on. Tough to put a positive spin on that when the video spread like wildfire, and was played on national news sites across the country.
So the Republican Party establishment wasted no time in calling for the congressman to resign. They must have figured that what goes around comes around, and here was the chance to hold a quick special election and bless one of their own as the heir apparent. Their problem is, at least so far, that the congressman isn’t budging and says he will serve out the term. But why the big rush to push him out of office? Because there is U.S. Senate politics involved in what happens to McAllister, and this is of major importance up in Washington.
You see, incumbent democratic senator Mary Landrieu is in the political fight of her life, running neck and neck with republican challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy. If McAllister serves out his term, then whether he stands for reelection or not, there will be a barnburner of an election come this fall. Lots of candidates running, as there certainly will be, means a big turnout, and this helps Landrieu. A quick resignation by McAllister means the new replacement would take office early, and the interest, particularly among marginally voting democrats in the 5th district, wanes significantly.
For the benefit of you out-of-staters reading this column, remember that I said, “down on the bayou.” That’s where all the republican establishment is living who are calling for McAllister’s head. Voters within the Fifth Congressional District, located primarily in northeast Louisiana, have been surprisingly quiet. No one in redneck country (remember now, I’m a redneck) is calling for McAllister to resign. At this point, public opinion seems to be in favor of the congressman at least finishing out his term.
The consensus seems to be that McAllister should base his decision on the feelings of two groups. First, his family. His wife publically standing by her husband would have a major effect in calming down local concerns. I ran for this same congressional seat back in the 1970s and know the district well. Strong family support and a mea culpa tour throughout the district by the congressman would make it much easer for voters to forgive.
Secondly, voters in this district are not going to be influenced by outsiders telling them whom they should or should not elect. These same voters rejected the efforts of the republican establishment, from the governor on down, to determine the anointed candidate in the last election. They seem to be on track to tell outsiders that they, voters in the district, will make the decision of who will represent them.
These voters are proclaiming to the wannabe king makers in Baton Rouge and New Orleans that the office belongs to them, and that they, and they alone, will decide if McAllister stays or goes. And you know what? Isn’t that how the democratic system is supposed to work?