MONROE, La. — To Louisiana voters accustomed to tawdry scandals involving elected officials, disappointment with an eye toward forgiveness is the prevailing sentiment about their new congressman, caught on video kissing an aide married to one of his friends.
Republican Vance McAllister was a wealthy businessman without political experience when he won a special election last fall, trouncing his party’s establishment candidate in a conservative district that comprises northeast Louisiana.
While some Republicans have urged the faith-and-family politician to resign, McAllister has said he will respect the verdict of his constituents this fall, when he seeks a full two-year term.
McAllister’s “main thing now is to get straight with his family,” said Jackie Coleman, a retired law-enforcement officer from Olla.
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“Then, this should be over,” said Coleman, one of McAllister’s constituents.
Many are as eager to speculate how a local newspaper got video of McAllister kissing Melissa Peacock as they are to offer an opinion about what it shows.
And they’re sure there’s more than enough hypocrisy and political intrigue to go around. For example, they note the histories of former President Clinton, former Louisiana governor and current congressional candidate Edwin Edwards (who served eight years in prison for a felony conviction arising from the licensing of riverboat casinos in his fourth term), U.S. Sen. David Vitter (who survived a prostitution scandal).
There’s been little subtlety in the response from Republican powers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal said McAllister should quit. So did the state Republican chairman, who said McAllister had become an “embarrassment.”
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said McAllister has “decisions that he has to make.”
The closest thing to support McAllister has found among his colleagues are statements of concern for his wife and five children.
Many voters seem more inclined to forgiveness.
Wearing a T-shirt from her Baptist church in the community of Start, Pamela Nolan made it clear she abhors marital infidelity. But, the hospital pharmacist added: “What laws has he broken? What trust has he violated, other than his wife’s? … The next election should be the determinant of how we feel about it.”
McAllister hasn’t appeared publicly since the weekly Ouachita Citizen posted online a grainy security tape showing McAllister and Peacock kissing in the congressman’s district headquarters.
McAllister’s Washington, D.C.-based spokesman said Peacock resigned voluntarily, but the lawmaker had no plans to step down.
McAllister won a special election last fall to succeed Republican Rodney Alexander, who resigned to take a spot in Jindal’s Cabinet.
McAllister spent his own money and got a boost from endorsements by his most famous constituents, the bearded Robertson men of the cable-television hit “Duck Dynasty.”
McAllister sought support from social conservatives. For example, the Robertsons are outspoken Christians, and McAllister appeared in ads with his family, promising to “defend our Christian way of life.”
But he defied Republican orthodoxy by calling for Medicaid expansion under President Obama’s health-care law.
Terry Parker, who owns a painting company in Start, said he voted for McAllister because of his emphasis on biblical morals. “He did this to himself,” Parker said. “But it’s dirty, dirty politics being done to him, too.”