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McAllister seeks redemption with longshot quest

Perhaps relieved at not having anything to do with him surfacing as a result of the hacking bust of the Ashley Madison spouse cheating website, former Rep. Vance McAllister looks to unseat state Sen. Mike Walsworth in this fall’s election. As lightning didn’t strike twice before, asking for it to do so again will be a reach for him.

McAllister initially became famous for coming out of nowhere to defeat several officeholders in a special election in 2013 for the Fifth Congressional District post. He celebrated by getting caught on video kissing a married staffer not his wife, thus earning him the sobriquet “the kissing Congressman.” After admitting the truth about the infidelity and saying he would pass on reelection, he changed his mind and ran a distant fourth.

He claims his rationale for running as Walsworth not paying enough attention to his district in favor of supporting policies of Gov. Bobby Jindal. Of course, this presupposes not only that the ideologies of Walsworth and Jindal don’t differ much, but that they also differ from the preferences of the 33rd Senatorial District.

That judgment seems suspect. Walsworth, according to the Louisiana Legislature Log, averaged a score of 75 over his past term, meaning this consistently placed him in the top 10 senators in terms of being most conservative and reform-minded. This meshes well with the district, which has over 37 percent registered Republicans, ranking it ninth-highest for GOP penetration among all of them.

Walsworth is considered an ally of Jindal, and Jindal is well under water on approval in the state. McAllister won in part in 2013 because he convinced enough voters that he was an “outsider” not affiliated with either Washington or the Jindal Administration and its supporters. Yet like all too many generals, they fight the last war and not the actual one in front of them, and the dynamics of a special election facing a non-incumbent differ substantially from facing in a regular election an incumbent elected easily in the past – and Walsworth cruising to victories precisely because of his good fit with the district.

By contrast, even nominally as a Republican in a safe Republican district, McAllister in office separated himself on several issues from the GOP conference in the House, most notably on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its allied expansion of Medicaid, which he supported. One of the first things the next Legislature must do is decide whether to enact a plan that allows many hospitals to raise their rates on ratepayers and taxpayers to fund Medicaid expansion in Louisiana, courtesy of a constitutional amendment and subsequent resolution where the opportunity expires early in this next session.

Walsworth was one of the few senators sensible enough to vote against the enabling resolution, as expansion would cost the state billions of extra dollars over the next decade and is more likely to cause worse health outcomes among the presumed client population than without expansion. It’s a no-brainer to reject it, yet by his past rhetoric McAllister would represent flipping a vote on the matter the wrong way if he replaced Walsworth.

Naturally, McAllister has little credibility in any event. The same guy who asks the district’s constituents to believe he better represents their values also told them he wouldn’t run for reelection, and then reneged. That other betrayal helped to cause widespread antipathy in his quest, and this track record in addition to his policies should guide voters to reject him in his latest attempt to feed his ego and make himself relevant again.

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