Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District faces a special election runoff next month to fill the seat of the suddenly retired Rep. Rodney Alexander, who got a cushy job in the Jindal administration. Even though Democrats outnumber Republicans in this district, it’s a safe GOP seat. The top two vote-getters in the recent primary, Neil Riser and Vance McAllister, are both Republican; in Louisiana, we have an open primary system in which the top two candidates in the general election advance to the runoff.

Both Riser and McAllister are very conservative, but the Baton Rouge Advocate reports that they differ somewhat on Obamacare, even though both strongly oppose it. Excerpts:

State Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, claims his opponent is wishy-washy for not opposing Obamacare strongly enough.

Businessman Vance McAllister, R-Monroe, counters that repealing the Affordable Care Act is not politically feasible at this time and the focus should be on kicking out the bad and keeping the good.


McAllister touts himself as the younger, more refreshing choice and pushes his lack of political experience as a positive.

He argues the more successful strategy to change Obamacare will be to treat the president and Democrats with respect and work at making the program’s worst features more acceptable.

“We have so much hatred,” McAllister told KARD-TV in West Monroe. “I’m looking to build relationships.”

Riser, on the other hand, is sticking with the hard-line “repeal Obamacare” approach.

“If the (Obamacare) rollout should be any sign of things to come, then all of us should be terrified,” Riser said.

Championing conservative principles is the only way to save America, Riser says, adding if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.

The Tea Party of Louisiana, a Baton Rouge organization, last week endorsed Riser in the runoff, saying McAllister’s statements were too conciliatory.

It’s going to be fascinating to see how this plays out. Will Fifth District voters, in the wake of the shutdown, reward the hardliner Riser? Or will they prefer the more pragmatic McAllister? Riser led the pack in the first go-around, and has a bigger campaign war chest. But some people are sore at Riser because they say he appears to have been the beneficiary of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s favoritism. Oh, and Duck Commander Phil Robertson endorsed McCallister “because he has the least experience.” These factors will play into the runoff vote, so I’m not sure how much of a bellwether for GOP post-shutdown politics the LA-5 vote will be. Still, the national press ought to pay attention to this race, given that McAllister and Riser are both hardcore conservatives without a dime’s worth of difference between them except for their post-shutdown positions on how to deal with Obamacare.

UPDATE: Reader sdb points out that McAllister’s more pragmatic approach existed prior to the shutdown, and is not opportunistic. I’m glad to learn that.