Sunday, December 10, 2006

William Jefferson wins, I got a headache.

Politics: This is irritating beyond belief.

NEW ORLEANS -- U.S. Rep. William Jefferson easily defeated his fellow Democratic opponent in a runoff election Saturday, despite an ongoing federal bribery investigation. In complete but unofficial returns, Jefferson, Louisiana's first black congressman since Reconstruction, received 57 percent of the vote over state Rep. Karen Carter, who had 43 percent. Carter was unable to capitalize on a scandal that included allegations the FBI found $90,000 in bribe money in Jefferson's freezer.
His presence in Washington could be embarrassing for Democrats, who won control of Congress on a platform of cleaning up corruption. In June, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., led a successful effort to remove Jefferson from the powerful House Ways and Means Committee as the probe unfolded. He was accused of taking bribes from a company seeking lucrative contracts in the Nigerian telecommunications market. He has not been charged with any crime and denies any wrongdoing. The scandal turned the race into a debate largely divided along racial lines, an age-old dynamic in this city that has intensified since Hurricane Katrina displaced large numbers of blacks and upended their demographic and political dominance. Whites, who overwhelmingly voted for Carter in the primary and have been her most enthusiastic financial backers, believed a Jefferson win would confirm this city's image as corrupt and untrustworthy as it asks the nation to fund its recovery from Katrina. City Councilman Oliver Thomas said Jefferson's victory would make the recovery more difficult. "People are watching this election all around the country and I can only imagine what they are thinking," Thomas said. "It will be very difficult to go back to them and ask them to trust us with the money we need here."
Here comes the Marion Barry rationale.
"Race is all too often a factor in campaigns in New Orleans," Ken Carter said. "Here we had a candidate that tried to paint this young African-American woman as a pawn of the white establishment." One white voter, George Christen, a registered independent, cast his ballot in a predominantly white precinct in the Algiers neighborhood, just across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter. "I just didn't want Jefferson in. Period," said Christen, 42. "Jefferson is an embarrassment. He needs to be out." Jefferson did get a vote from Jene Allen, who is black. "He started the job. Let him finish it," said Allen, who wouldn't give her age. "I know Karen Carter would be the first black woman, but I think she played it dirty, too dirty." Jefferson, 59, drew widespread support among blacks who are skeptical of the federal government's motives in its investigation of him. He repeatedly suggested the probe is groundless because he has yet to be indicted more than a year after the FBI raided his home in New Orleans. Carter, 37, raised nearly five times as much money as Jefferson, but she was largely outflanked in the endorsement game. Jefferson picked up the backing of Mayor Ray Nagin and other prominent black politicians.
I guess I was expecting too much from Louisiana of all places to clean up its act but that was too much to ask for at this point. Corruption is Louisiana.

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