McAllister apparent winner in 5th District congressional race

WASHINGTON — Rookie Vance McAllister says he’s never visited Washington, D.C., but now he has a job in the nation’s capital.

McAllister upset state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, by winning the all-GOP runoff for the 5th Congressional District seat in much of northern and central Louisiana.

McAllister had 54,449 votes, or 60 percent of those counted in the runoff, according to the complete but unofficial count of all 981 precincts by the Secretary of State. Riser had 36,837 votes or 40 percent of the votes counted.

The all-Republican runoff decided who will replace U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, who resigned in September midway through his term, which ends next year.

Having never visited Washington, McAllister said late Saturday he is excited about his first trip.

“I’m looking so forward to it,” he said. “A lot of great leaders and great patriots have walked through there.”

He said it is time to “quell the politics as usual stuff.”

He credited running a positive campaign and connecting with the voters for his big win. He also invested more than $800,000 of his own money. “It was enough,” he said with a laugh about the amount he spent.

Riser declined a request for an interview late Saturday.

Riser polled well in the rural portions of the 24-parish 5th District. He won 10 parishes but only increased his vote total by 3,792 over his 33,045 votes in the Oct. 19 primary.

McAllister overwhelmed Riser in the more populated parishes of Ouachita and Rapides and picked up 36,060 votes since the primary. McAllister nearly tripled his primary vote total in Ouachita Parish, taking 15,377 votes to 6,914 for Riser.

Jamie Mayo, the mayor of Monroe, endorsed McAllister and put his political organization to work for the first-time GOP candidate.

McAllister also beat Riser in Rapides Parish with a vote of 9,824 to 4,904. In October, McAllister received 2,781 votes to Riser’s 4,446. Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, who ran fourth in the primary and is a longtime political figure in Rapides Parish, endorsed McAllister.

A total of 91,286 voters cast ballots, which is 19 percent of the 481,523 registered voters would cast ballots Saturday. Polling places reported light turnouts around the state on the first day of deer hunting season for hunters using guns for most areas in the 5th District.

Running as a Christian conservative and a political outsider, McAllister rode the endorsements of “Duck Dynasty” stars Phil and Willie Robertson to surge out of obscurity and into a seat in Congress.

University of Louisiana at Monroe political scientist Joshua Stockley said McAllister once again surprised everyone with his strong showing.

“He proved every single pundit wrong,” Stockley said. “Not only did he win, he obliterated the frontrunner.”

McAllister has a “great recipe for victory” that included his personal wealth to self-fund most of his campaign, the backlash against the political establishment, the support of “Duck Dynasty” stars and the quirks of Louisiana’s open primary election.

McAllister’s “more pragmatic approach” resonated with voters and won him more Democrats and moderates, Stockley said.

Rod Drehr, a commentator in The American Conservative, wrote that Duck Dynasty’s Robertson family was McAllister’s secret weapon. “The Tea Party is nothing compared to the Duck Commander dudes.”

In his congratulatory new release, Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere said the vote should give Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu pause because the results show that Louisiana voters “want leaders who will shake up the liberal establishment in Washington.”

Landrieu, who faces re-election next year, said in her congratulatory news release, “Throughout his campaign, Mr. McAllister emphasized that he wants to find solutions and common ground. With this desire and his business background, I know we can both work together to grow and expand the middle class in Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District.”

Riser, 51, is a funeral home owner. McAllister, 39, owns varied businesses, including an oil-and-gas leasing company, a pipeline padding business, Subway franchises, and an events promotions company for wrestling and mixed martial arts.

McAllister grew up in Oak Grove, lives now in Swartz and operates most of his businesses out of Monroe.

Riser carried the endorsements of Alexander and most of the Republicans in the Louisiana congressional delegation. Riser also received fundraising support from U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. But he also had the support of various tea party groups, so he has the backing of the GOP establishment and the far right.

Riser ran as a conservative who would fight the alleged federal government overreach. He sponsored the 2012 constitutional amendment making the right to bear arms a “fundamental” one in the state.

McAllister ran an anti-establishment campaign and he carries similar political views as Riser on most issues. But one key issue where they split was health care. They both adamantly oppose the Affordable Care Act. But, where Riser took a repeal-only approach, McAllister said he wants to repeal it but realizes that is not politically possible for now with Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate.

McAllister also came out in favor of the Medicaid expansion to insure 265,000 more low-income Louisianians as long as the law is in place. Gov. Bobby Jindal has rejected the expansion. Riser attacked McAllister relentlessly on the issue during the last week of the campaign.

The redrawn 5th District is the state’s poorest, most rural and by far the largest geographically, stretching into 24 parishes from Monroe down to Alexandria and into the Florida parishes, which include the north Baton Rouge suburban and bedroom communities in East Feliciana.

The district includes the following parishes: Avoyelles, Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, East Carroll, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, LaSalle, Lincoln, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Rapides, Richland, Tensas, Washington, West Carroll, West Feliciana and Winn, as well as parts of East Feliciana, St. Helena, St. Landry and Tangipahoa.

McAllister said he is going to spend Sunday having a family breakfast, going to church and then going to New Orleans for the Saints game.

“Then I’m going to hit the ground running and get to work,” he said.