Sunday, December 07, 2008

Blessed apathy

It seems good things happen in Louisiana when people stay away from the polls in droves. Make of that what you will.

This time, the beneficiary of voters' not noticing -- or caring -- an election was on ended up being . . . democracy itself. Saturday, only 12 percent of voters turned out in largely African-American precincts in the New Orleans area, while a comparatively robust 26 percent turned out in white precincts, and famously shady U.S. Rep. William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson was toast.


From the New York Times story today:

Representative William J. Jefferson was defeated by a little-known Republican lawyer here Saturday in a late-running Congressional election, underscoring the sharp demographic shifts in this city since Hurricane Katrina and handing Republicans an unexpected victory in a district that had been solidly Democratic.

The upset victory by the lawyer, Anh Cao, was thought by analysts to be the result of a strong turnout by white voters angered over federal corruption charges against Mr. Jefferson, a black Democrat who was counting on a loyal base to return him to Congress for a 10th term.

A majority of the district’s voters are African-American, and analysts said lower turnout in the majority black precincts on Saturday meant victory for the Republican.

With all precincts reporting, Mr. Cao, who was born in Vietnam, had 49 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Mr. Jefferson, who had not conceded as of late Saturday night.


Mr. Jefferson, shunned by national Democratic Party figures and low on money because of his pending trial, was counting on — and appeared to be getting — strong support from local leaders. In 2006, he was handily re-elected though the bribery scandal had already been aired.

This year, a number of the city’s top black pastors announced their support for him just days before the election.

But it was not enough. Mr. Cao, promising ethics and integrity, offered voters a break from the scandals associated with the incumbent and his siblings, several of whom have also been indicted.

Mr. Jefferson, 61, awaits trial on federal counts of soliciting bribes, money laundering and other offenses. Prosecutors contend that he used his Congressional office to broker deals in African nations, and say he received more than $500,000 in bribes.

Mr. Cao, 41 and known as Joseph, fled Vietnam at age 8 after the fall of Saigon. His father was a army officer who was later imprisoned for seven years by the Communist government. Mr. Cao, who has never held elective office, has been an advocate for the small but prominent Vietnamese community here and has a master’s degree in philosophy from Fordham University.
IT'S NOT OFTEN one finds reason for good cheer when talking about New Orleans electoral politics. Today there is reason -- lift up your song to Heaven and break out the good liquor!

And let's all say a little prayer thanking the Almighty for good ol' Louisiana apathy, Anh "Joseph" Cao (pronounced "GAO"), Democratic pols who crossed over to campaign for him . . . and a dedicated do-gooder minority of voters.

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