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In another display of excellent decision making, Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) — otherwise known as the Kissing Congressman — is considering reversing course and pursuing re-election in the fall. The disgraced congressman, who made headlines earlier this year when a video showing the married father of five locked in a passionate embrace with a staffer was leaked, has apparently made adequate apologies to his wife and to God, and has received the green light for another campaign.

Polling also played a role in McAllister’s change of heart; private surveys released earlier this week actually show McAllister as the frontrunner in Louisiana’s 5th congressional district. Conducted by the Glascock Group, the latest poll shows McAllister with a slight 26.1 to 25.6 percent edge over state senator Neil Riser, a former opponent. Riser has since decided against a campaign, however, leaving McAllister as the only candidate with considerable public support.

Then again, Zach Dasher — a member of Duck Dynasty’s Robertson family — recently announced plans to run for McAllister’s seat, so maybe there will be some stiff competition after all. Dasher, the nephew of Phil Robertson — the “Duck Commander” of the family, who is famously close with McAllister — is a 36-year-old father of four with no political experience, but plenty of reality TV support. In a statement, Dasher emphasized his religious-right bona fides, saying, “Man is made in the image of the Almighty God. If we are afraid to say that, then we don’t have a case for liberty.” He went on to proclaim his position as “a strong supporter of the Second Amendment [who] favors adoption of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and a strong U.S. military.” 

Glascock’s poll also listed McAllister as both a Republican and a Democrat, following rumors of an affiliation switch, but McAllister reaffirmed his dedication to the GOP in a statement earlier this week. “I believe in pro-life, I believe in a strong military, in a smaller government, I believe in a free enterprise system,” he assured constituents. “Those are all core values of the Republican Party … and I’ll always be a Republican.” Apparently, one of the core values of the Republican party is not fidelity.

Of course, McAllister has never completely ruled out a potential re-bid for Congress. “If there’s a possibility that the people want me to do another political office, again,” he said in May, “maybe I’ll do it.

Now, it would appear that the people have spoken.

McAllister may be taking his cues from another famously scandal-ridden Louisiana politician. In 2007, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) was revealed as a client of “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey. Vitter admitted to his dalliance with prostitutes, and like McAllister, apologized to his wife and to God, asking his constituency for forgiveness. 

Though the scandal was expected to sound the death knell for Vitter’s political career, the senator not only managed to escape with his career intact, but also went on to win a landslide re-election in 2010. Vitter, one of the few prominent politicians to support McAllister during his scandal, is now the frontrunner in Louisiana’s 2015 gubernatorial race.

While Vitter is a prime example of a scandal success story, his situation is the exception, not the norm. According to a Washington Post analysis of 38 political sex scandals over the past four decades, only 39 percent of House and Senate members involved in such a sticky situation won re-election. The rest lost, resigned, or chose not to run again. Even more troubling for McAllister, the rate of re-election for scandal-ridden members of Congress has plummeted since Bill Clinton’s impeachment; just 20 percent have held on to their seats after a scandal since 2000.

Chart via Washington Post

Chart via Washington Post

The odds are against McAllister, but that won’t stop him now.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.