Perhaps we should have seen this coming when the early voting totals showed little interest, but while practically every prognostication concerning the Fifth Congressional District special election focused only on some combination of state Sen. Neil Riser and any of a few other candidates with electoral office-holding backgrounds, one name that seldom came up because of his unknown quality was businessman Vance McAllister. And then the odd dynamics of this contest intervened to put these two Republican businessmen into the runoff.
With about a third of the vote, Riser moves on to the Nov. 16 runoff. But joining him about 14 points behind, a couple ahead of the third-place Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, was McAllister. Turnout appears only to have been little more than 20 percent, of which half voted for candidates other than this pair moving on.
That low turnout was key for McAllister’s surprise besting of Mayo, three state representatives, and a Public Service commissioner, for of these others, he appealed to the narrowest constituency most intensely interested in the election. Not that some of the other candidates wanted it to turn out this way, because they wanted at least part of that constituency.
That being the folks who found fault with the presumed political “establishment,” to which it was imagined Riser belonged, even though he has spent just a few years in elected office, because he was seen as allied with Gov. Bobby Jindal, got endorsements from many elected officials, and aided by Washington-connected Republicans. By contrast, the likes of state Rep. Jay Morris and Commissioner Clyde Holloway sought to position themselves as outside of this assumed clique to capture that segment of the vote they felt would be turned off by Riser, even as they scarcely differed from his conservative political views.
Except that wasn’t good enough for that slice of the voter pool, because these candidates were too impure precisely as they held elective office, a fault McAllister didn’t share. And that portion of the electorate was magnified when McAllister, who spoke in extreme generalities about economic and social conservatism but said little of specifics concerning issues except that he was against the policies of Pres. Barack Obama (unless speaking to an audience that supports them), got support from the likes of reality television stars that may have caught the attention of those who fancy a pox on all politicians.
In other words, McAllister grabbed the vote of the most disgruntled and anti-big government electors out there. It would not surprise that some, in an election where only the most chronic voters participated, were not even regular voters, but were drawn in by a candidate with enough self-financing to alert them of the genuine insurgency that his candidacy represents. They, their impact magnified by low turnout, might have been that difference that gave McAllister another month of candidate life.