Medicaid expansion, Duck Dynasty and a Louisiana House special election

November 18, 2013

Republican Vance McAllister will soon be headed to Congress.


McAllister celebrates with his family and supporters after winning the 5th Congressional District election 60 percent to 40 percent Saturday. (Emerald McIntyre/AP)

Who?

In an upset, McAllister, 39, won Saturday's special election runoff in Louisiana's 5th district, defeating a candidate backed by the GOP establishment. He heads to Washington with an atypical résumé and unlikely political profile. Here are the five biggest things to know about McAllister:

1. He backs Medicaid expansion. At a time when most Republicans are using every chance they can get to assail the federal health-care law, McAllister embraced one of its core components: The expansion of Medicaid, the program that provides health care to low-income Americans. McAllister's opponent, state Sen. Neil Riser, did not support expanding the program. And Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) — a Riser friend — has refused to accept the expansion for Louisiana. As the New Orleans Times-Picayune noted, the 5th district is one of the poorest in the nation, which could explain why McAllister's message gained traction.

2. He dropped out of college. McAllister had dreams of becoming a doctor. And after service in the Army as a combat medic, he attended college with an eye on medical school, but as he put it to the Advocate newspaper, he learned that "life is not always fair" when he didn't get accepted, and then left his studies altogether to work on a surveying crew. He worked his way up and now owns various business and franchises.

3. He was supported by the "Duck Dynasty" family. Willie Robertson, start of the popular reality TV show "Duck Dynasty," cut an ad for McAllister, who knows his father Phil Robertson from church. For an idea of how popular "Duck Dynasty" is in Louisiana, take a look at this map, on which the darker the red, the more viewers tuned in for the show's season four premiere.


A heat map of a television event from Aug. 14, 2013. (Tracey Robinson, National Media)

4. He has never held public office before. When he becomes a congressman, it will be the first time McAllister has held public office. McAllister played up his status as a political newcomer in the campaign.

5. He funded most of his campaign with his own money. Through late October, McAllister had loaned or given his effort more than $400,000, campaign finance records show, representing the majority of total money that flowed into his campaign. Every election cycle, there are self-funders who strike it big and self-funders who fall flat. Count McAllister in the former category.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Chris Cillizza | November 18, 2013