While the runoff spot secured by Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, Saturday evening came as little surprise to political observers in north Louisiana and elsewhere, the inclusion of Monroe businessman Vance McAllister adds a whole new dynamic to the Nov. 16 runoff in the 5th Congressional District.
As reported earlier this month by LaPolitics, McAllister's campaign picked up momentum late in the game, probably thanks in no small part to an endorsement from reality TV star Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty.” Nonetheless, he emerges from the primary as not only an unknown entity, but a rising star in Louisiana politics. Whether he can maintain the latter status in the coming days and weeks in the hardball environment of congressional campaigning is another matter.
Sources also told LaPolitics this week that McAllister had opened up his coffers in a major way in recent days to increase his media buys and intensify his get-out-the-vote efforts, which may have been indicative of his own internal polling. Everyone is still waiting, however, to see his FEC reports, which have been MIA so far.
More than any other candidate in the race, he probably hurt the chances of Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, the most. Morris had attempted to label himself as the outsider in the race, but ended up in the sixth spot following the preliminary primary vote count.
With Morris and a dozen other candidates out of the way, McAllister, a Republican newcomer to politics, can now run a campaign as the one true outsider. Being self-funded, he may also get an opportunity to let his bank account breathe a bit. Endorsements from Morris and Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, a Republic from Forest Hill, would help, but aren't necessary for him to continue gaining momentum, if he's able.
Like Morris, Holloway was highly critical of Riser in the primary, due chiefly to his ties to outgoing Congressman Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, and Gov. Bobby Jindal. Both GOP contenders accused Alexander and Jindal of orchestrating a truncated election that benefitted Riser, the one candidate who had been planning to run for years.
Even though Riser has solid conservative creds, like an unshakable relationship with the National Rifle Association, and stellar fundraising—U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia co-hosted one recent event—McAllister could position himself to the right of the frontrunner if he so chooses. On his website, McAllister said he knows how "government red tape and bureaucracy (has) hurt small businesses and workers" and that he "will fight to turn the economy around by repealing ObamaCare, investigating the IRS and stopping the march of big government into our lives."
But in a district with a strong Democratic voting bloc, at least on paper, it's uncertain how much ground McAllister could gain from such a strategy. With Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, a Democrat, falling roughly 3,000 votes shy of making the runoff, and Democrats pulling in nearly 31,000 votes, McAllister may be better positioned to run a more open-minded campaign. Still, the Democratic base didn't exactly shine in Saturday's contest.
Here's how the preliminary numbers broke down Saturday evening for the top contenders, out of 103,377 votes cast:
— Riser: 33,045 votes, or 31.97 percent
— McAllister: 18,386 votes, or 17.79 percent
— Mayo: 15,317 votes, or 14.82 percent
— Holloway: 11,250 percent, or 10.88 percent
— Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville: 9,971 votes, 9.65 percent
— Morris: 7,083 votes, 6.85 percent
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