“Duck Dynasty” cousin Zach Dasher announced Monday he would make his first run for public office in a challenge this fall to replace the kissing congressman who won the northeast Louisiana seat with the support of the West Monroe reality television stars.
Later in the day, state Sen. Neil Riser said he would not run again for the 5th Congressional District seat he lost in a special election last fall.
Riser, R-Columbia, had been considered the front-runner but was defeated by political newcomer Vance McAllister, who ran as a Christian conservative family man endorsed by the Robertsons. The Robertsons end each episode of “Duck Dynasty” with a family prayer.
The Nov. 4, 2013, race was thrown open earlier this year when security images were made public of McAllister giving a lingering kiss in the dark to an aide who is married to a longtime friend of his. He has since said he would not seek reelection, though has given hints that he might have changed his mind.
Dasher, a 36-year-old pharmaceutical representative from Calhoun, announced his candidacy for the 5th District race with a news release and visit to conservative radio talk show host Moon Griffon.
“It is time for ordinary citizens to get off of the sidelines and get involved in the political system,” Dasher said in a news release. “For too long, we’ve set idly by while Washington politicians slowly gain control over every aspect of our lives. I can effectively fight the big government intellectual elitists in Washington.”
Dasher’s mother is the sister of “Duck Commander” businessman Phil Robertson.
Dasher has worked in the pharmaceutical industry as well as in the real estate business. He has also been involved in fundraising for nonprofit organizations.
Dasher stressed his family — he is married with four children — and faith in the news release.
“Man is made in the image of the almighty God. If we are afraid to say that, then we don’t have a case for liberty. Our rights do not come from a bunch of elite politicians in Washington, D.C. They come from the almighty God,” Dasher said.
Meanwhile, Riser said family issues involved in holding a congressional seat did not play a big role in his decision.
“I have never had a job that I didn’t work seven days a week,” said Riser in an interview. “My family is accustomed to me working.”
Riser declined to say who he will support.
He said there are several conservative contenders in the race or considering bids.
Asked to assess McAllister’s time in Washington he said, “We could use another congressman this fall.”
“Now the dam has been broken. Riser getting out,” said Roy Fletcher, a Baton Rouge-based political consultant.
Very few voters know the candidates who have decided to run. That opens up the possibility that an elected official or better known candidate will jump in.
Though ratings nationally have been dropping like a stone, Fletcher said “Duck Dynasty” remains immensely popular in northeast Louisiana and carries panache among voters.
“My gut is that this boy will get 20, 25 percent,” Fletcher said of Dasher.
State Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, disagrees, saying that McAllister jumped from 18,839 votes in the October 2013 election to 54,450 ballots in the Nov. 16, 2013, runoff. Riser’s vote totals only picked up about 3,800 votes from the primary to the runoff.
“You can’t convince me that the whole ‘Duck Dynasty’ piece was that significant,” Gallot said. More important for McAllister was his tack to the center, telling voters that even though he politically disagrees, respect should be shown to Barack Obama because he is president, and that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land so efforts should be made to fix the healthcare plans rather than just oppose it.
“People appreciated his openness and his frankness,” Gallot said. “I don’t see this being a big philosophical shift of being an outsider.”
Four candidates have announced so far: Republican Ralph Abraham, of Alto; Republican businessman Harris Brown, of Monroe; Republican former District Attorney Ed Tarpley, of Alexandria; and Libertarian Clay Grant, of Boyce.
Candidates have to file the necessary paperwork between Aug. 20 and Aug. 22. All candidates who qualify run on the same ballot in November. If no candidate garners at least 50 percent of the vote, the race proceeds to a December runoff.
The 5th District stretches from Monroe to Alexandria to Bogalusa.
Though it has large minority and blue collar population that leans Democratic, more than 60 percent of the voters there supported GOP presidential candidates in 2008 and 2012.
Will Sentell and Marsha Shuler, of The Advocate Capitol news bureau, contributed to this report.