The ego of Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway might be what brings about the nightmare scenario for state Republicans in the Fifth Congressional District contest.
That features Rep. Vance McAllister, who invited disgrace this April when discovered that he was committing marital infidelity with a staffer/family friend. At first, he said he would not run for reelection under those circumstances, saying he needed time to repair his family relations and should concentrate on that. But, lo and behold, in record time he seemed to get his mind right and his family reconciled and suddenly by the beginning of July said he was rested, relaxed, and ready to go for another term.
It’s not that McAllister deserves approbation because of his extracurricular activities, for as long as those did not interfere with the performance of his duties, he needs to be judged on the merits of his policy preferences, which are partially but not entirely problematic. It’s that he said he would do one thing – not run for reelection to work on his personal life – and then announced he didn’t really mean it and did another. People vote for candidates because they trust them to do what they say. Events show that you can’t trust McAllister.
Such a damaged candidate state Republicans did not want. Making it worse for them was his inconsistent policy preferences – not just deviating from conservatism, but in that he claimed that in Congress they were among Members votes generally up for sale, and then demurring to give any evidence to back his assertion. Having an untrustworthy Member of Congress on the issues becomes worse when his assertions become clownish and apparently designed more to gain attention than to contribute to serious discussions of policy. Constituents prefer that their representative be a grownup prior to taking the job.
But with his reemergence out of the slime the fear among GOP activists was that by virtue of his incumbency, which to a nontrivial slice of the electorate is the only data point it finds relevant in decision-making, he would command a sufficient portion of the vote that he could finish second or better in the general election runoff, and that the opponent would be a liberal Democrat. The Democrats played their part by having just one of them, and a quality one at that in the presence of Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, qualify. Thus, Republicans had to hope that a quality candidate from their party would emerge during the campaign. In this fashion, GOP support could coalesce around that one individual, but the more who entered, the less likely one individual could emerge decisively enough, increasing the chances that Mayo’s uncontested Democrat support and McAllister’s regnant inattentive-but-vote-in-every-election somnambulant button-pushers would deliver that duo into the runoff.
This consensus candidate had yet to make himself known at qualification, although some appeared to have that potential. Then, just before qualification began last week Holloway began to hint that he’d have a go at it. After all, he was sitting on around $150,000 in a federal campaign account that by Louisiana law could not be used in a state campaign, and he apparently held a fundraiser in late June that scooped in thousands more into that account. And what about the billboard promoting his candidacy that has stayed up on I-49 near Alexandria long after the special election that McAllister used to gain office late last year in which Holloway finished fourth with 13 percent of the vote? Then he carried through at the last minute, saying that byhis reading he was the only guy who could defeat McAllister.
The problem is, Holloway was in this situation once before and failed to deliver. In 1991, he ran for governor as a principled conservative alternative to populist conservative former state Rep. David Duke and sitting (like McAllister in unreliability to conservatism, but unlike him in personal comportment) Gov. Buddy Roemer. He racked up a measly 5 percent of the vote and was unable to prevent Republicans from, if not helped produce (by taking votes from Roemer) their experiencing the nightmare runoff scenario of Duke vs. former Gov. Edwin Edwards. And this time, ensconced in one of the lesser vote-rich portions of the district, he’ll have to compete around that southern portion with the first candidate to enter, former Grant Parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley.
Republicans’ day already had gotten worse when Monroe attorney Jeff Guerriero, who ran well in a state senator race in 2011 and lent himself almost as much as Holloway has now sitting idle in a state campaign account that he can finesse towards spending on a federal campaign, jumped in. These unexpected entrants will take few voters from McAllister and mostly cannibalize from the others, only increasing his odds of making the runoff and of bringing about the GOP’s nightmare scenario.
So Holloway is unlikely the candidate that can surpass McAllister, but is a candidate who can dilute support for others who otherwise could. That reality seems lost upon him in what appears to be a messianic fantasy. He thinks he can “save” the party from McAllister, when it is more likely his campaigning will contribute to McAllister probably retaining his job. And it is worth pondering that Holloway did endorse McAllister last time when he was defeated by him.