WASHINGTON — In his first try for elected office, Vance McAllister, who is backed by a “Duck Dynasty” television star, found himself Saturday night in a runoff for Louisiana’s 5th congressional district.
State Sen. Neil Riser, as expected, led the field in complete but unofficial returns.
The two Republicans, Riser, a funeral home operator from Columbia, and McAllister, a Monroe businessman, will face each other in a Nov. 16 runoff.
About 21.5 percent of the district’s 481,294 registered voters turned out to choose the replacement for U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, who resigned in September and took a job in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.
With all 981 precincts reporting, Riser led the way with 33,045 votes or 32 percent of the ballots counted. McAllister counted 18,386 votes or 17.8 percent of the 103,377 votes cast.
Riser said he is “very pleased” with securing about 32 percent of the vote in a 14-person field. Several of the other candidates were “running pretty close” so he was not necessarily surprised in his runoff opponent.
“The 5th district is going to pick the best qualified candidate, and I have the qualifications for that,” Riser said.
Riser, 51, won Ouachita and Rapides, the two most populous parishes in the district. He won 16 of the 24 parishes in the 5th district.
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.
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 said Saturday night he is the candidate who brings youth and “no strings attached” by never having held office. “I’m ready to take the fight to them in Washington,” he said.
McAllister said he sought counsel with “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson and prayed with him before deciding to run for Congress.
McAllister said that the Robertson endorsement gave him a “shot in the arm” and that he has funded about 85 percent of his campaign thus far, but that he hopes the run off will boost outside fundraising.
About 29 percent of McAllister’s votes came from Ouachita Parish, where he came in second, but ahead of three elected officials in the parish.
“I’m humbled and honored that the people had this much faith in me,” he said.
Robertson’s endorsement “had to play a tremendous role in one way or another,” said Joshua Stockley, a political scientist with the University of Louisiana at Monroe. The independently wealthy McAllister also seemingly won the “anti-career politician” vote, he added. McAllister criticized many of his opponents as a “bunch of career politicians” looking for their next taxpayer-funded jobs.
McAllister has a platform to “fight Obamacare” and investigate the IRS. He is a pro-Second Amendment, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage candidate.
McAllister, 39, owns varied businesses, including Subway franchises, a pipeline construction company and an events promotions company for wrestling and mixed martial arts.
Democratic Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo came in third with 15,317 votes or 14.8 percent cast.
Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, a former Republican congressman from Forest Hill, came in fourth with 11,250 votes or 10.9 percent of the votes counted.
The open primary special election Saturday culminated a wild two months of campaigning since former Alexander, R-Quitman, surprised many by announcing in August.
Fourteen candidates, including six election officials, joined the mad scramble to raise campaign cash and shake as many hands as possible in the mostly rural, sprawling 5th district.
Other candidates included state Reps. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville, Jay Morris, R-Monroe, Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe; and former state Rep. Weldon Russell, D-Amite.
The rest of the field included Henry Herford Jr., a Libertarian and “recovering Republican” from Delhi; Eliot Barron, Green Party candidate from New Orleans; Louisiana Black Farmers Association President Peter Williams, No Party-Lettsworth; oil-and-gas landman Tom Gibbs, No Party-Calhoun; engineer and farmer Phillip “Blake” Weatherly, R-Calhoun; and insurance underwriter S.B.A. Zaitoon, a Baton Rouge Libertarian.
The redrawn 5th congressional 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.
One-third of the district’s registered voters is African-American and 50 percent of the total registered voters are Democrats — compared with 27.5 percent Republicans — although many of the registered Democrats may no longer vote that way. About 60 percent of the district backed GOP nominee Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama last year.