Zach Dasher’s Campaign Is Beginning To Take Shape

Who seems to be making the cleanest case for himself as THE conservative in the 5th District race?

We all know that isn’t Vance McAllister. McAllister ran to the left of Neil Riser in last year’s special election runoff last year, after all, backed a Medicaid expansion (and still does) and put himself into the soup with conservative voters (and lots of others) with his sex scandal earlier this year.

As a result, there are a number of new candidates vying to consolidate the anti-McAllister conservative vote, and just like in the 6th District race there’s a fight to get the Republican spot in the runoff that will ultimately result in victory.

Since McAllister is exceedingly vulnerable as the Republican/conservative option in the race, one way to see it as a race among the new people to best cast themselves as the most outspoken and articulate conservative in the race.

As of right now, two of the new guys – Ralph Abraham and Zach Dasher – might be the frontrunners. Here’s an ad Dasher just launched which might be one of the better ones being run in this cycle…

A Monroe News-Star piece last week on Dasher’s campaign shows a bit more that he’s a clear, unapologetic, between-the-eyes conservative…

In a race dominated by conservatives, Dasher seems to have staked out the position farthest to the right.

He’s earned endorsements from tea party favorite Sarah Palin, the Club for Growth Political Action Committee and Citizens United Political Victory Fund.

“If you mean that I’m an advocate for free market policies and individual liberties, then I’m absolutely the most conservative candidate in the race,” Dasher said. “What people really want is someone to stand up for our freedoms.”

Dasher emphasizes his disdain for the federal government, going as far to say there’s an ongoing movement to “take over states’ rights” and create “a culture of dependency” he wants to reform.

“We have an entitlement system that keeps people addicted to the government dole,” he said. “It’s a culture of dependency that is funded, propagated and advertised by the federal government.” Dasher uses the federal government’s marketing of free cell phones to those who qualify as an example.

And he said the “culture of dependency” contributes to America’s illegal immigration issue.

“The demand for illegal labor has been created because we subsidize a large part of the (citizen) population not to work,” he said.

Dasher seems to be getting the most buzz in the 5th District right now. He’s sitting on endorsements from the Club For Growth, Sarah Palin, Citizens United and the Tea Party of Louisiana, and while fundraising numbers for the third quarter aren’t yet available Dasher’s campaign says they’ll be showing a big number and a strong war chest going into Election Day in November.

The Cook Political Report (link requires subscription) said last week that Dasher has the “momentum” in the race…

“Toss Up. Could the ‘Kissing Congressman’ still win a full term this fall? In a year when other Republicans are surviving weightier scandals by appealing for forgiveness, a McAllister win can’t be ruled out. But with five credible candidates – including four Republicans and one Democrat – vying for two December runoff slots, there are almost too many permutations of what could happen in this wide-open race.

This week, McAllister began running a mea culpa ad featuring his wife telling the camera, ‘I’m blessed to have a husband who owns up to his mistakes.’ But the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame, which backed McAllister in the 2013 special election, has now thrown its weight behind Willie’s cousin, Zach Dasher, who has worked in pharmaceuticals and real estate. So has the Club for Growth.

McAllister’s best path to reelection would involve many GOP candidates splitting up the anti-McAllister vote and allowing Democrat Jamie Mayo, the African-American mayor of Monroe, to advance to the general election. Some local observers believe that a strong African-American turnout driven by a competitive Senate race means Mayo is very likely to advance to a December runoff, where he would likely lose to a Republican.

But Dasher’s momentum may complicate that calculus. In recent weeks, he seems to have eclipsed GOP physician Ralph Abraham (who still may have the capacity to self-fund) and oil and gas businessman Harris Brown, setting himself up as the main alternative to McAllister. If Dasher and McAllister were to face each other in December, the edge would have to go to the less damaged Dasher.”

There isn’t a public poll in LA-5 showing movement toward Dasher at this point. The only public polling out there seems to be the Glascock polls on the race, and they’ve been criticized in a number of quarters. The last Glascock poll showed Dasher in fifth place with only seven percent of the vote, but he’s probably further along than that.

Club For Growth, meantime, is releasing an ad today which eviscerates McAllister and seeks to open some space for a conservative candidate to move into the runoff…

Dasher’s strategy might well be the opposite of the one which worked for McAllister last year. Namely, McAllister was able to position himself as just to the left of Riser in an all-Republican runoff, and won a big 60-40 victory by getting a lot of conservative voters who tied Riser to Gov. Bobby Jindal, plus set himself up as the facsimile Democrat in the race. McAllister was able to do that in no small part by saying he was in favor of Medicaid expansion.

But with Monroe mayor Jamie Mayo looking like a sure thing to make the runoff, this year’s dynamics are totally different. By taking an absolute “no” position on Medicaid expansion and equating a soft position on that with support of Obamacare, he’s seeking to make himself the candidate for hard conservatives. And because Abraham has had problems on Medicaid expansion and Obamacare – he says he’s against Medicaid expansion but he’s been a bit unclear in his messaging about just how much of Obamacare he opposes – what Dasher might be able to do is to paint the Richland Parish physician as squishy on Obamacare just like McAllister is.

While in the Riser-McAllister race the opportunity lay in favoring a Medicaid expansion and a centrist position on Obamacare. But with Mayo likely holding down a runoff spot the opportunity this time seems to be to position oneself as THE candidate staunchly opposed to both.

Otherwise known as the most conservative candidate in the race.

The 5th District is probably the most socially conservative of any in Louisiana – but it was held down for more than a decade by Rodney Alexander, who paired that conservatism with a fairly liberal fiscal record and mountains of appropriations. The question for Dasher is this: will he be able to put himself in a position to attract enough hard-core conservatives to make the runoff without going so far as to give Mayo life in December, or secondly, is his reading of the electorate such that unapologetic conservatism in Alexander’s district can make a runoff the correct estimation?

As we’re only five weeks from the primary, it’s going to be interesting to see. One surmises that either Dasher or Abraham, who in his own right looks like a down-the-line conservative outside of his somewhat muddled messaging on health care, will be the Republican vaulting past McAllister into the runoff.

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