Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) could be fighting for his political life after a video surfaced on Monday showing him kissing a female staffer.
The married freshman congressman doubled down, saying he doesn’t intend to resign in the wake of the scandal and told The News-Star in Monroe, La., that he plans to run for reelection in November, “unless there is an outcry for me not to serve, and so far, there has been an outpouring of support, not for my actions, but for me to continue to represent the people.”
But that early support could quickly dissipate, according to state political observers.
Longtime Louisiana pollster Bernie Pinsonat told The Hill that McAllister’s chances to win reelection in November have been “damaged severely” by the scandal.
“I think it affects his chances dramatically. His chances of being reelected have been dramatically damaged by this revelation and admission,” Pinsonat said in a phone interview.
Former Rep. Clyde Holloway (R-La.), who served from 1987–1993; and state Sen. Neil Riser, who lost to McAllister in last year’s election, might run again, Pinsonat said.
“He may survive, but he’ll have a very difficult time getting reelected,” he said. “I think you’ll have some additional candidates looking at it.”
If McAllister does run, he could find himself fighting beyond even November. The state’s all-party primary will be held on general Election Day, and if no candidate gets 50 percent, the top two vote-getters will advance to a Dec. 6 runoff.
GOP lawmakers were largely silent on the incident Tuesday.
“I think that his constituents deserve an apology. I’m glad he issued an apology,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters after a Republican conference meeting.
He did not respond directly when asked if McAllister should resign. “I have not had a chance to speak to the congressman, so I am going to reserve further judgment on your question,” Cantor replied. “I will say that the American people deserve all of their representatives here in Washington to hold to a very high standard of behavior.”
The woman McAllister kissed was identified as his district scheduler, Melissa Anne Hixon Peacock, 33, who was taken off the payroll as of Monday night, McAllister’s chief of staff Adam Terry told Louisiana’s The News-Star.
Peacock and her husband, Heath Peacock, each contributed $5,200 to McAllister’s campaign, Terry said.
Heath Peacock told CNN on Tuesday that McAllister has “wrecked” his life. The couple has been married for six years and they have a 6-year-old son. Peacock said he plans to file for divorce.
“I’m just freaking devastated by the whole deal, man. I loved my wife so much. I cannot believe this. I cannot freaking believe it. I feel like I’m going to wake up here in a minute, and this is all going to be a bad nightmare,” Peacock said.
After the video quickly circulated on Monday, McAllister released a statement that said he was “asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve.”
McAllister told the local newspaper that he spoke to his wife of 16 years about his relationship with Peacock in late January or early February. Asked if it was his first infidelity, McAllister said “absolutely.”
There was also controversy on Tuesday over how the video was leaked to the newspaper, after a minister in McAllister’s district claimed the congressman’s Monroe district manager, Leah Gordon, said she leaked the video, according to The News-Star.
The pastor, Danny Chance, said Gordon was going to deliver the video to a state senator and a onetime aide to former Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), who McAllister replaced in November’s special election.
Both state Sen. Mike Walsworth and the former Alexander aide, Jonathan Johnson, denied ever receiving a copy of the video, though. Terry said he spoke to Gordon on Tuesday morning, and she also denied leaking the video.
But Louisiana political strategist Roy Fletcher wasn’t as pessimistic about McAllister’s chances, saying it’s too early to tell if the scandal would have an effect on his reelection bid.
“I don’t know because you just don’t know how people will react. It has to settle in for a while and see what happens. I don’t know of anybody running. I literally haven’t heard a word from anybody about somebody running for Congress against him. None,” said Fletcher, who has worked on hundreds of campaigns in Louisiana and across the country.
Asked if Louisiana voters care about an official being involved in an extramarital affair, Fletcher said, “I think they care. Is it the dominant issue of the day? I don’t know that. It just depends.”
Russell Berman contributed to this report.
This post was updated at 8 p.m.