McAllister won't run for reelection

Greg Nash

Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) apologized on Monday for his "personal failure" and said he will not seek reelection this fall, but has no plans to resign.

The embattled congressman, who faced calls to resign after a video of him kissing a staffer who is not his wife went public, said in a statement that the past few weeks "have been a trying time for my family."

"As I've said before, there's no doubt I've made a mistake. I've failed those I care most about and let down the people who elected me to represent them," he said.

McAllister added: "I take full responsibility for this personal failure and I'm truly sorry for what I've done. I have taken this time to reconcile with my wife and kids and I'm forever grateful for their support and forgiveness."

McAllister said, however, that "the people of the Fifth District of Louisiana need and deserve a voice in Washington," and so while he won't run for reelection, he'll  "continue to be that voice and will uphold the office to which I was elected to serve for the remainder of my term."

According to the Monroe, La., News Star, the congressman was flying back to Washington, D.C., along with his wife after making a final decision Monday morning to return, according to the News Star. An aide confirmed that he would be back this week for House votes, but didn't say whether he'd return in time for votes on Monday afternoon.

Both Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and Louisiana GOP Chairman Roger Villere had called on McAllister to step down after the video's release. But McAllister has not indicated he has any plans to do so, instead returning to his district to spend time with family and lying low for the past two weeks during Congress's recess.

Jindal said in a statement that while he stands by his call for McAllister’s resignation, he’s glad his constituents can begin to move forward.

"While we still believe the best course of action would have been for Congressman McAllister to resign so he can focus on his family, we are pleased Congressman McAllister and constituents in the district can begin the process of putting this unfortunate situation behind them," he said.

Kelly McAllister, the congressman’s wife, said she is “behind him 100 percent,” and Vance said she’s returning with him to Washington “because she knows it’s going to be a firestorm when I get there and she didn’t want me to face it alone.”

The video that has dogged McAllister, which was taken last December, showed him kissing former staffer Melissa Peacock, and went viral earlier this month when it was leaked to a local newspaper and posted online.

Peacock’s husband, Heath, told CNN that the congressman “has wrecked my life.”

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (Ore.) stopped just short of calling for his resignation, but did declare on CNN’s "State of the Union" that “it's bad. It's wrong. He needs to answer and be held accountable.”

And an automated poll conduced by a small firm in Louisiana, Glascock Group, found a slight majority of voters, 51 percent, said the scandal would prevent them from voting for him again. Another 49 percent said it would not keep them from reelecting the congressman.

McAllister won his seat in a competitive special election last fall to replace former Rep. Rodney Alexander (R), who resigned to take a position in Jindal's administration.

His retirement could again open up a competitive Republican primary for the seat, which heavily favors the GOP. Following publication of the tape, some of McAllister’s former opponents expressed interest in — or didn’t outright shut the door on — challenging him again.

State Sen. Neil Riser (R), who was defeated in the runoff by McAllister, told The Hill Monday that he's considering a run, and had been receiving calls of encouragement to jump in the race.

"At this point in time I’m definitely not ruling anything out. I need to speak with my family and touch base with my constituents before I make that decision," he said.

But another potential Republican candidate, Louisiana Publica Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, also left the door open to a bid.

“Regarding any talk of myself or actually of any other possible candidates who may run, it’s actually too soon to make such a decision,” he said in a statement, adding that “at this time,” he’s happy with his current position.

He signaled, however, that the primary could again shape up to be a fight over Jindal’s influence on the race. Riser’s critics had charged during the last race that Jindal and his supporters had colluded to create a path for Riser to the nomination.

“I want to thank Vance for making this decision early enough in the process so that any individuals who may desire to run, will have time to poll, organize and adequately fundraise…and not put the voters and district in the rushed situation they were put in last year when Governor Jindal, (former) Congressman Rodney Alexander and Neil Riser tried to orchestrate an election,” Holloway said.

Riser dismissed such charges, telling The Hill that the 14-person primary made for "more than a fair race."

Former Grant Parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley has already announced he’s running, and businessman Harris Brown has reportedly left the door open to a run.

A spokeswoman for Alexander told The Hill Monday that the former congressman still has “no plans to run” for his old seat, despite a previous report that he was open to it.

Another potential candidate, state Sen. Elbert Guillory (R), said he would run if Riser opts out.

“Neil Riser has my full support if he runs, and if he does not it is something that I will have to look at,” he told The Hill.  

Guillory added that, if Riser doesn’t run, “it’s such a great opportunity, it is something I cannot turn my back on.”

—Updated at 6:30 p.m.