Republican Vance McAllister doesn’t want to repeal Obamacare and he’d rather work with his opponents than destroy them.
In a big upset this weekend, he beat a tea partier in a special election for a House seat in a conservative Louisiana district.
McAllister, a businessman, ran on a conservative platform, both socially and fiscally, but campaigned as pragmatic and compromising person—an anti-establishment candidate to the left of the tea party. He beat out Republican state Sen. Neil Riser, who had the support of a handful of prominent Republicans including House Majority leader Eric Cantor and the tea party. He ran on a far-right, uncompromising platform.
“There’s a wave of pragmatism in some of these primaries,” former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Monday’s Morning Joe.
Riser campaigned on repealing Obamacare, attacking McAllister for saying the law should be amended and fixed. McAllister criticized House Republicans for voting to repeal the healthcare law dozens of times.
“But the truth of the matter is you stand on a platform and pander for votes on something that can’t be repealed,” McAllister told Riser in a debate.
Despite the messy, flawed roll-out of the healthcare law, voters sided with McAllister, who went on to say Louisiana should accept the federally-funded expansion of Medicaid.
“It’s kind of a follow up to what happened in [Alabama’s first district], where you had a businessperson who’s sane and rational winning,” Joe Scarborough said Monday.
Byrne also ran as a businessman and outsider against a far right candidate and won in an off-year election.
“It always has been the smaller races where the Tea Party has always been able to win with just that message… of don’t just go along to get along, fight to the point of irrationality,” NBC News’ Chuck Todd said.
“It does seem,” Todd said cautiously, “to be two in a row” where a more moderate, pragmatic candidate has won.
McAllister did benefit from a high profile endorsement from the stars of Duck Dynasty, which is filmed in the district.
“What a blessing,” McAllister told supporters in his victory speech on Saturday according to Reuters. “It’s gonna be fun. I guess Fox News, get ready. Sometimes the truth ain’t what you want to hear, but it’s what you’re going to get.”
The two candidates were running to replace former Rep. Rodney Alexander, who left office to take a job in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s cabinet. In Louisiana, if no candidate wins the majority of voters in a primary, as happened with Riser and McAllister, the two top finishers run in the general election.