Vance McAllister's congressional career came and went quickly, but that doesn't mean he has entirely left public life behind.
The Louisiana Republican won a Nov. 16, 2013, special election to fill the vacancy created when GOP Rep. Rodney Alexander decamped from D.C. to lead the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs.
But by April 2014, McAllister's nascent tenure was unraveling. That was when video surfaced of the married father of five passionately kissing his also-married district scheduler, Melissa Peacock, at his Monroe, La., office. The grainy security camera footage landed McAllister in the doghouse with disillusioned constituents, House Republican leaders and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — all of whom leaned on the newcomer to take one for the team and spare the party another tawdry scandal.
Talk of an early resignation briefly reverberated through the Capitol before McAllister unilaterally decided to give it another go. Voters didn’t share his enthusiasm; McAllister failed to lock down one of the top two slots on Election Day 2014, finishing fourth among all eligible candidates.
Twelve months and two unsuccessful campaigns later, McAllister is more convinced than ever that our political system is in major disrepair.
“It is an unfortunate ridiculous mess that is going on,” he said of the current state of Congress.
In an interview with Roll Call, McAllister said the de facto practice of kowtowing to hardliners from both parties — particularly those culture warriors explicitly sent to Washington to shoot down everything that clashes with their ideology, only to be welcomed back home as heroes — is a recipe for disaster.
He bemoaned the lack of genuinely purple districts on the electoral map and the dearth of seasoned compromise-seekers on Capitol Hill.
“I almost feel like our own party shot themselves in the foot by creating these R-plus districts. When we gerrymandered all these districts … you get two, far-apart sides that can just get re-elected by doing their own thing,” he said. “Everyone deserves representation.”
The reality, McAllister said, is that “people are so fed up that they just don’t believe in the system anymore.”
Combating that burgeoning disillusionment is what prompted him to head back out on the stump earlier this year.
When local officials approached him about challenging incumbent GOP state Sen. Mike Walsworth, McAllister shrugged off the abbreviated timetable — he entered the race roughly six weeks before the Oct. 24 election — and stepped back into the fray.
“For me, it wasn’t about having a job. It was about helping the people,” he asserted.
The time-crunched challenger raced to distinguish himself from Walsworth and, by extension, Jindal.
McAllister weighed in on a series hot button issues, sounding off online about everything from Common Core (“I am FOR strong standards, but with LOCAL control,” he declared on Oct. 12) to illegal immigration (“My solution to the immigration problem in just THREE words: SECURE THE BORDER!” he shared on Oct. 19) via a series of Q&A-style disclosures.
Come decision time, 62 percent of voters elected to stick with Walsworth , in the Pelican State's 33rd District Senate seat.
While the comeback bid did not go as planned, McAllister maintains it was not a wasted effort.
“At least I put the incumbent on notice that he’s not doing the job he should be doing after being there for 20 years,” McAllister said.
Outcome aside, McAllister said he was most disappointed in — but not surprised by — the anemic response at the polls. “The biggest frustration is low voter turnout,” he said, noting that there was only about 30 percent turnout during his special election.
Whether he’ll ever run again remains an open question. “I don’t know what’ll happen,” he said of his political future.
Just don’t expect him to turn his back on our collective future.
“If something comes up that I can make a positive difference in for the community … then it’s all our duty to serve,” he told Roll Call.
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