ALEXANDRIA — U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister sounded Monday like a candidate for the fall congressional 5th District election instead of a man who, on a video that went viral, kissed his nascent political career goodbye.
“We’ve had a lot of supporters come out and say ‘You decided too quick’ ” not to seek re-election, McAllister told a crowd in Alexandria at a Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
“My intention today: I’m not running,” said McAllister, a Republican from Swartz, near Monroe. He said later he’s leaving his “options open.”
Talking to reporters before the luncheon, McAllister three times passed on saying definitively whether he’s thinking about a run in the November election.
He said he will continue to be a congressman until the term is up in January, and he will be guided by constituents.
“I have a job to do as a congressman, and that is what I’m going to do,” he said.
GOP political consultant Roy Fletcher said if McAllister is wavering it could be a signal of an internal struggle he’s fighting.
“He’s trying to deal with a lot of things, and one of those is dealing with himself,” Fletcher said.
McAllister told those at the Chamber luncheon that he was never the choice of the established Republican Party to replace Rodney Alexander, who resigned in 2013 to take a job with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.
McAllister won a special election last year, where, in a runoff, he handily defeated the Louisiana Republican Party’s hand-picked candidate — state Sen. Neil Riser.
“It’s no secret the GOP is not fond of me,” McAllister said Monday. “My voice is for the 5th District.”
McAllister ran in 2013 as a Christian family-values candidate. He self-financed the campaign with $1 million and had the backing of Phil Robertson and others in the famed “Duck Dynasty” family.
McAllister’s storybook tale of a Christian congressman, not beholden to party bosses and unswayed by the push and pull of politics, unraveled in early April. A video shot last year was released by a Monroe newspaper showing the congressman in a long, deep kiss with an aide who was the wife of a friend.
McAllister did not, despite numerous calls from state and national Republican Party officials, resign.
But in early May, McAllister’s Washington, D.C., office issued a statement saying he would not run for re-election in the fall.
“I made a decision with my wife and all at the time not to run for re-election,” McAllister told reporters Monday.
Fletcher and University of Louisiana at Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross said if McAllister were to decide to run, it would be difficult raising money, and he might have to self-finance another campaign.
Cross said McAllister deciding to run “is going to open him up to all kinds of bad press and the obvious charge that he can’t make up his mind, that he’s a flip-flopper.”
At the luncheon, also attended by McAllister’s wife, Kelly, and one of their five children, 3-year-old daughter Eva, McAllister recounted times during his short tenure in Washington that he said showed he was an independent legislator.
He said Louisiana’s 5th District, which stretches from northeast Louisiana south to Rapides Parish and farther south to parishes north of Baton Rouge, is the ninth-poorest in the country.
He said many in the district need Jindal to accept the billions of dollars in Medicaid funds available for Louisiana.
Jindal has refused the funds, citing the portion the state would have to fund in a few years.
McAllister also lamented the political spin both Democrats and Republicans engage in.
He said he disagrees with Republicans’ insistence that Democrats lied about what happened in Benghazi, where an ambassador and others were killed in 2012.
“They (Democrats) didn’t lie. They spun it exactly like Republicans would,” he said.
McAllister said he feels for the families of those who died in Benghazi, who have to relive the pain every time it’s brought up by politicians playing blame games. He said debates on such matters are all show and never have a winner.
“They don’t like it when you call them out on it,” he said.