BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The married congressman who refused to leave office after he was seen kissing a female aide on grainy security footage changed course Monday, announcing that he would run for re-election despite the scandal and calls from the GOP leadership for his resignation.
Rep. Vance McAllister said in April after the video was posted on the website of a Louisiana newspaper that he wouldn’t seek another term. But two months later, the freshman congressman said he will be on the Nov. 4 ballot as a candidate for Louisiana’s 5th District.
“Without a doubt this decision comes after much thought and prayer,” McAllister said in a statement. “This district has been home to me and my family all of my life. I know the needs of this congressional district very well. I also know that this district needs a strong, conservative voice in Congress.”
In an interview, McAllister said that he’s received an outpouring of encouragement from people in the district urging him to run and the strongest support came from his wife, Kelly.
“She sees the work that goes into it every day, and she’s telling me that I really should,” he said. “She was a strong advocate and supporter of wanting me to really consider.”
The congressman, who ran on a platform of faith and family, apologized for a “personal failure” after the security tape showed him kissing the married aide in his congressional office. She later resigned.
McAllister, who’s held the congressional seat for less than year, said he won’t spend time discussing the scandal during his campaign.
“I’ve got a record. I’m going to talk about the future, not the past,” he said.
GOP leaders, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, pushed for McAllister to step down, but he refused. They called his behavior embarrassing and hypocritical and were displeased with Monday’s announcement.
“Congressman McAllister made the right decision earlier when he said he would not run again. It is disappointing he changed his mind,” Jindal said in a statement.
State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere said McAllister should have stayed out of the race and worked on repairing the damage to his family.
“I just don’t see how you come back in this short period of time and say, ‘OK, I’ve fixed everything and I’m ready to go,'” Villere said.
McAllister tossed aside the criticism, saying: “Those who have been against me and have called for my resignation are those who don’t even vote my district. They’re not the people I represent.”
The congressman, from the rural town of Swartz, held a news conference at an American Legion Hall in his district to announce his re-election bid.
McAllister’s previous announcement that he wouldn’t run again, combined with the fallout from the scandal, has attracted several new contenders for the race, leaving the incumbent congressman with a tough road to re-election.
A businessman with no political experience, McAllister won a special election in November 2013 to represent the district centered in the state’s northeast and central parishes, surprising the GOP by handily defeating the Republican establishment candidate.
McAllister largely self-financed his election bid and got a boost from endorsements by the men of the cable television hit “Duck Dynasty.”
But the TV family appears to have moved on. Zach Dasher, a nephew of the show’s Phil Robertson, is running against McAllister. Dasher said the show’s stars support his campaign.
“They’ve got to stick with family and get out there and campaign for who they believe in,” McAllister said. “But our relationship is still the way it was before. It’s still strong.”
In addition to Dasher, at least four other candidates have announced so far, and while McAllister may want to move past the video, one opponent suggested he can’t. Republican businessman Harris Brown, of Monroe, said McAllister “brought great embarrassment upon our state and district.”
“He is doing a tremendous disservice to the people of the district by running again,” Brown said in a statement. “McAllister needs to move out of politics, so the people of the 5th Congressional District can move beyond him and his scandal.”
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