Our Views: Poor area’s big needs

Members of the House of Representatives serve terms of only two years, and U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister even less, because he was elected in a special election to fill the unexpired term of his predecessor.

As McAllister, R-Swartz, paid good money for that seat — his campaign was self-funded to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars — no one should be surprised that he holds on to it until its expiration at the end of this year.

But he will not seek re-election, a good call given the scandal he caused with an amorous embrace with a woman not his wife, recorded on office security cameras.

If McAllister’s political career is now on the bad side of meteoric, the people of the 5th District of Louisiana deserve a congressman who will focus on their needs. As McAllister will return to private life, the race for the November election is already on.

As it begins, we hope that the candidates will approach this election not with poll-tested banalities but with some appreciation for the staggering difficulties for most families in the sprawling district based along the Mississippi Delta, and across the Florida Parishes to Bogalusa.

If there is wealth in farmland and timber across the district, there is also a level of poverty and hopelessness that ought to inspire contenders to think about how to improve things for Delta families.

In McAllister’s win last year, he stressed a pragmatic approach to issues, particularly expanding Medicaid health coverage for the working poor. That issue is still a live one, and we think there are few places in the nation where it would do more for folks’ health than in the Delta.

But that is not the only challenge facing the district. McAllister’s predecessor, Rodney Alexander, was a member of the House Appropriations Committee, and thus specialized in bringing home grants for the district. The practice of “earmarks” in appropriations bills is drastically reduced in today’s Congress, a good reform, as earmarks were often abused. But there are still ways for members of the House to work federal agencies for funding for legitimate needs in a Delta district.

We hope to hear more from candidates than the blather of sloganeering from talk-radio.

This is a district that needs a representative who acts and not just reigns.

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