Baton Rouge’s famously snarled traffic Thursday kept one incumbent congressman from getting to the Secretary of State’s Office in time to officially sign up to run for re-election.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, was stuck in traffic and could not get to the office before the 4:30 p.m. deadline, an official with his campaign told reporters. McAllister would, instead, come to the office Friday to fill out the paperwork and pay the fees necessary to officially put his name on the Nov. 4 ballot. Qualifying ends at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler walked into the lobby a couple times, looking into his parking lot for McAllister, as the deadline approached, but locked up at the precise hour as required by law.
McAllister’s re-election campaign for the 5th Congressional District has been the subject of much speculation since the April release of security camera images showed him kissing a married aide. He withstood pressure from GOP leaders who demanded he immediately resign, but said at the time that he would not run for re-election in the fall.
Then in July, with his wife and children at his side, McAllister announced that he would run again after all. He must qualify if he is to run in November.
The northeast and central Louisiana 5th Congressional District includes Monroe, Alexandria and the rural parts of the Florida parishes that border Mississippi.
Earlier in the day, Zach Dasher, a Calhoun Republican, filled out the papers to run for the 5th Congressional District as his wife, Jil, and four small children looked on.
Dasher’s uncle is Phil Robertson, the “Duck Commander” in the popular reality cable television series “Duck Dynasty.”
In the last election, the Robertson family backed McAllister, who ran as a “family values” conservative. In this election, the Robertsons and their employees have donated about $60,000 to Dasher’s campaign. Dasher said the Robertson family is behind his candidacy “110 percent” and would be helping his campaign.
He is running as a conservative Christian. Dasher, 36, sells biogenetic pharmaceuticals and is an ordained minister in the Church of Christ who volunteers at a campus ministry on the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Dasher says he has never met the governor, but Gov. Bobby Jindal’s top political advisers, operatives and fundraisers are handling his campaign.
Dasher said that should he win the seat in Congress, he would vote to immediately revoke the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare.”
During the special election last fall, McAllister opposed Obamacare but accepted the reality of the president’s health care plan and proposed improvements to it. That was contrary to other Republican candidates who vowed to oppose and overturn Obamacare immediately.
McAllister won a November runoff in a landslide, beating state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, who had been backed by the GOP leadership. In addition to the Robertson family, McAllister had the significant help of Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo. The contest was for the remainder of the term of Congressman Rodney Alexander, who had abruptly resigned.
Mayo, a Democrat, filed on Wednesday to run against McAllister for the congressional seat as did Republicans Ed Tarpley, of Alexandria; Ralph Lee Abraham, of Archibald; and Harris Brown, of Monroe.
Nearly 450 candidates qualified Wednesday to stand for election to seats in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, district and appellate courts, and as district attorneys, along with some local government and state Public Service Commission offices.
Only about 40 more candidates signed up on Thursday, according to an unofficial count at the end of the day.
About 20 percent of the qualifiers so far are women, including U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans. She and her main Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge, qualified on the first day.
U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, was one of the handful of candidates to qualify Thursday. He seeks re-election to the 1st Congressional District seat, which covers suburban New Orleans, including much of Jefferson Parish and the north shore, sweeping into many of the communities along Bayou Lafourche.
Asked if he would support Cassidy’s challenge to the re-election of Landrieu, Scalise said: “I have been very supportive of him.”
National Republicans hope to pick off Landrieu — and enough other Democratic incumbents running in red states — to take the majority of the seats in the U.S. Senate. Louisiana’s Senate race “is critical to our ability to get Republican control of the Senate” and stopping gridlock on issues such as the Keystone Pipeline and a balanced federal budget, Scalise said.
Another Republican and tea party favorite, Rob Maness, of Madisonville, is expected to file Friday for the U.S. Senate race.
In the 6th Congressional District, which arcs from south Baton Rouge and its suburbs to the bedroom commmunities west of New Orleans to Houma, picked up a ninth candidate Thursday when Republican state Rep. Lenar Whitney paid the fees and filed her paperwork. Whitney backs a balanced budget amendment, says global warming is a hoax, favors term limits and that she would repeal the federal Affordable Care Act.
Whitney said she has an edge as the “only geographic candidate coming from the south,” meaning Houma, since the rest of the candidates live Baton Rouge or its suburbs.
Craig McCulloch, a Republican from Ethel and a physical therapist, also filed, becoming the 10th candidate for the 6th District seat Cassidy is vacating for his Senate challnege. And Norm Clark, of Denham Springs, a retired law enforcement officer and American Legion post commander, became the 11th candidate to throw his hat into that ring Thursday. He says, “We need a new norm in Washington.”
Another couple of candidates are expected to file to replace Cassidy.