MONROE, La. (AP) — Republican Rep. Vance McAllister is trying to make up with Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
Campaigning for a new term, the lawmaker dubbed the "kissing congressman" tells audiences that he's made a "personal mistake." In a recent debate, McAllister said that "regardless of any kind of personal mistakes in my personal life, I've done the job" of serving in Congress.
It's an unusual strategy driven by unusual circumstances.
Earlier this year, McAllister was caught on tape kissing a married former employee. He initially said he wouldn't run again, but then changed his mind and now is one of nine candidates seeking election to Louisiana's 5th District, representing northeast Louisiana. If none of the nine wins a majority on Nov. 4, the top two vote-getters advance to a Dec. 6 runoff.
McAllister's wife, Kelly, is on board with the re-election strategy, vouching in a commercial for his atonement amid a campaign rooted in faith and family.
"A man's character is based on how many times he gets back up and stands again," she says in the ad, in which she describes feeling blessed to have a husband who "owns up to his mistakes."
The strategy to neutralize the political value of the scandal appears to be working, with just over a week to go before Election Day. McAllister's eight opponents focus on other matters, and polls suggest that the congressman has a significant shot at making the runoff.
But he's had to self-finance most of his campaign.
Sensing a weak incumbent, newcomers and seasoned politicians crowded the race, leaving no clear front-runner in the field.
Zach Dasher, the Republican upstart who is kin to the "Duck Dynasty" TV clan, is relying on a faith message, suggesting that Washington needs more God in its policy-making. His famous family members have poured more than $50,000 into the campaign.
Dasher's religious message could be a strong sell to evangelical voters who question McAllister's claims of faith and family values after the kissing scandal.
Other Republicans in the race are relying on their professional backgrounds to seek votes. Ralph Abraham of Mangham talks about his work as a doctor. Harris Brown of Monroe describes his small business background and his work with the local levee district.
Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, of Forest Hill, references his three terms as a congressman 20 years ago in trying to sway voters.
Jamie Mayo, the Monroe mayor and the lone Democrat in the race, is highlighting the need to embrace federal aid in the congressional district, one of the nation's poorest. He's also the only candidate in the field to speak kindly about President Barack Obama.