Edwin Edwards probably put it best. “The only way I can lose this election,” he famously once said, “is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.”
That, in a nutshell, describes the tolerance for scandal in Louisiana. Or at least the understanding of it. Edwards, a former congressman who was elected four times as governor, has found himself linked to some kind of corruption or scandal for much of his political career. Now 86 years old, married to a woman 51 years his junior and a new father, again, he is seeking a return to the House. He’s running for the seat in the 6th District, centered in Baton Rouge, which is being vacated by GOP Senate hopeful Bill Cassidy. (Edwards last served in the House in 1972, 42 years ago.)
Pelican State acceptance of scandal is bipartisan. David Vitter, a Republican, was overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term in 2010 despite being caught up in the 2007 so-called “D.C. Madam” prostitution scandal, in which his phone number was found in a list of published records. Vitter, a strong conservative who ran on a “pro-family” platform, asked his wife and the public for forgiveness and got it. He is now a leading candidate for governor in next year’s election.
So what to make of the latest news, that Rep. Vance McAllister (R), who is married and who won a special congressional election just five months ago, running as a conservative Christian, has seemingly been caught on video passionately kissing one of his female staffers? The video was posted online today by The Ouachita Citizen, a conservative newspaper, which described the congressman’s philosophy:
“Throughout last fall’s congressional campaign, McAllister … touted his Christian faith and in one television commercial, he asked voters to pray for him. At least two other campaign television commercials featured McAllister walking hand in hand with his wife, Kelly, while their five children walked along. One television commercial captured the McAllister family in the kitchen of their home preparing breakfast before attending church.
McAllister and his wife have been married for 16 years.
McAllister told The Ouachita Citizen during last fall’s campaign that he would not shy from stressing his Christian faith. McAllister and his family are members at North Monroe Baptist Church. That faith prepared him for public service, he said during an interview.
‘You don’t achieve goals by compromising your integrity but by building relationships on respect,’ McAllister said.”
(Click here to see one of McAllister’s campaign commercials, courtesy of YouTube.)
McAllister released a statement that said, “There’s no doubt I’ve fallen short and I’m asking for forgiveness. I’m asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve. Trust is something I know has to be earned whether your a husband, a father, or a congressman. I promise to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I’ve disappointed.”
McAllister, who won a special election to fill the 5th CD seat vacated by Rodney Alexander (R), attracted national attention during the campaign with his strong support by Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame. Wrote Ben Jacobs on The Daily Beast website, “The Duck Dynasty congressman got caught sticking his beak in the wrong place.”
McAllister was sworn in as a new member of Congress on Nov. 21. In January, before a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Monroe, he had this to say about his new job: “It sucks. It ain’t no fun. But, the day I start enjoying it in Washington, D.C., is the day that I should come home.”
Let’s see if he comes home earlier than he expected.