'Kissing Congressman' Faces Long Odds to Keep Job

Thursday, 10 Apr 2014 12:13 PM

By Joe Battaglia

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If history is any indication, the odds are against Louisiana Rep. Vance McAllister, the "kissing congressman," keeping his job.

The first-term congressman, a married father of five who ran for office on a conservative Christian platform, was caught on surveillance tape kissing Melissa Hixon Peacock, a paid member of his staff, inside of his district office in December.

Story continues below video.



McAllister has, so far, escaped widespread calls for his resignation, although Adam Terry, McAllister's chief of staff, told The Hill that he had a brief conversation" with Roger Villere, chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, and "can confirm he asked for Vance’s resignation."

Politico cited sources saying Terry's conversation with Villere to be "heated," and that Villere eventually hung up.

McAllister, meanwhile, has given no indication he plans to resign. He told The News Star,  he plans to stand for re-election "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 McAllister's chances of survival do not appear to be great.

According to a study by The Washington Post, 37 House and Senate members and one president have come under scrutiny for sexual harassment, extramarital affairs and other sex-related allegations since 1974 and only 38 percent of them have kept their jobs. The rest chose not to run, resigned or lost.

Using 2012 reported re-election rates of 82 percent for House members and 81 percent for senators, the study found an officeholders' re-election chances were cut in half when suffering a personal scandal, and in total politicians hang onto their jobs for an average of two years following reports of such scandals. In 14 scandals since Bill Clinton's presidency, just two officeholders have won re-election.

According to Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, McAllister's relative political inexperience is likely to play against him even though Louisiana has a reputation for forgiving this kind of behavior.

"He is a freshman and not yet secure in his district," Sabato told The Times Picayune. "Republican voters are often less tolerant of these shenanigans, and inevitably McAllister will be challenged in the open primary ... I will bet district Republican leaders are buzzing already about possible replacements."

Brian Brox, a political scientist at Tulane University, told The Times Picayune that McAllister's best move might be to hold a news conference with his wife, apologize, and then remain quiet.

"If he is to survive, he should probably… admit everything and then lay low, focusing on policy work and [quietly] building bridges back in the district and among important party leaders," Brox said.

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