BATON ROUGE, La. – Vance McAllister, a political newcomer with the backing of the popular “Duck Dynasty” TV family, was elected Saturday as Louisiana’s newest member of Congress.
McAllister, who largely self-funded his campaign, beat establishment candidate Neil Riser, a state senator, in a special runoff election for the vacant 5th District seat.
Both men are Republicans.
With almost all of the vote counted, McAllister had a commanding lead.
McAllister, a businessman with multiple companies, ran as a political outsider, capitalizing on frustration with politicians and Congress. As a point of pride during the campaign, he said he’d never been to Washington.
Riser, a funeral home owner in the Senate since 2008, campaigned on his experience in the Legislature and with the support of tea party groups.
“Plain and simple, this was Riser’s election to lose. Riser was the favorite going into the evening. He had the dollars. He had the endorsement of the Republican establishment. He had a strong showing in the primary. Yet, he lost it,” said Joshua Stockley, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
Riser and McAllister are both conservatives and largely agreed on many issues. Both oppose abortion, favor strong gun rights and criticize the levels of federal spending and debt.
Their sharpest distinction rested with President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
Both opposed the health overhaul, but Riser wanted only repeal, saying the law will harm businesses and families and can’t be fixed.
McAllister said repeal had no chance with Democrats leading the Senate and White House, so he said Congress should work to improve the law. He also wants Louisiana to expand its Medicaid program to give insurance to the working poor, an expansion that Riser opposes.
The positions put McAllister at odds with some tea party supporters but generated support from Democrats who had no candidate of their own in the runoff.
Stockley said voters in the very strongly conservative 5th District “signaled that McAllister’s pragmatism seems to be a more tenable governing solution.”