Political newcomer Vance McAllister is headed to Congress after an upset win Saturday evening in a Louisiana special congressional election – winning the GOP runoff even after coming out for Medicaid expansion.
McAllister, a businessman who had the backing of “Duck Dynasty” stars, ran a more centrist campaign in contrast to his opponent, who took a hardline against Obamacare. The result? He upset frontrunner, state Sen. Neil Riser, by 20 points, 60%-40%, in the low-turnout runoff for the 5th District contest. He will succeed former Rep. Rodney Alexander, who resigned earlier this year to take a post in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.
Riser had the backing of Alexander, much of the state’s congressional delegation and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. He had long been seen as the heir apparent to Alexander and had heavily outraised McAllister, who put over $400,000 of his own money into his campaign.
But it was McAllister who took a surprising tack in a debate last week – coming out in favor of Medicaid expansion in the state as part of the Affordable Care Act as Jindal, the state’s Republican governor, refused again to accept the expansion.
“Our governor and Sen. Riser right here have gutted (heath care) to the core and privatized it,” McAllister said in a debate last week, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune. “Before we give handouts, we need to give hand-ups,” and he added, ”If you’re going down the road at 50 mph, you just can’t throw it in reverse.”
Riser said he continued to believe repeal was possible, and the two also disagreed over how much should be required of insurance companies – McAllister said companies should have to cover people with pre-existing conditions, but Riser said companies had the right to decide whether or not to accept them.
“We sent a man to the moon, certainly we can repeal this law,” Riser said.
Even though this is a solidly Republican seat that gave Mitt Romney 60% of the vote last year, McAllister’s strategy may have helped him appeal beyond the GOP base in the runoff, getting Democratic and independent voters .
The wealthy businessman, who touted in his ads he was a political newcomer who had never even been to Washington, also had help from some of the state’s most famous residents – members of the Robertson clan, the duck call makers featured in the popular reality TV show, “Duck Dynasty,” who also boasted that McAllister had “the least political experience.”