Stupid, Stupid, STUPID!
Shame on you, New Orleans voters! Shame!
As most news junkies are now aware, Rep. Bill Jefferson (D-LA) won his runoff election for Congress last Saturday. Jefferson is under an FBI investigation for taking bribes; an informant caught him taking $100,000, $90k of which was later found in his freezer. He was also roundly criticized for his actions following Katrina: while other residents were slogging through toxic, waist-deep water and other politicians were fighting bureaucracy to speed up the rescue process, Jefferson had a helicopter rescue him and a few possessions from his house. He defeated state Rep. Karen Carter, another Democrat, by about a 15 point margin, and that's a real shame for Louisiana. Most folks expected Carter to win in a landslide, not the other way around; endorsements from two key West Bank figures, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee and state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, the third place finisher in the original Nov. 7 election, put him over the edge.
The popular character Lee was ticked because Carter criticized him and other Jefferson Parish officials for not allowing Orleans Parish residents to evacuate during Katrina (gee, Sheriff Lee, did you really expect that to win you more friends?). The speculation about Shepherd is that he expects Jefferson to go to jail, and wants to run again in the special election to replace him - something he couldn't do if Carter were elected. Voters also chose to ignore the FBI investigation, saying innocent until proven guilty (never mind that that only applies to the court of law, not the court of opinion), and that if the FBI were going to indict Jefferson, they would have done it by now (never mind the notoriously sluggish pace of Justice Dept. investigations, and the history of indicting politicians AFTER re-elections). Other voters said corrupt or not, Jefferson has seniority in Washington that helps New Orleans - which may have been true two years ago, but not anymore. A freshman Carter would have had more clout than the disgraced Jefferson - Speaker-to-be Pelosi kicked him off Ways and Means, the powerful money committee he sat on, and announced earlier this week that he won't be allowed back on, at least until the investigation is over. Any clout his seniority won him has been lost, and the folks with real influence and power no longer respect him.
Listen to me, Louisiana: The rest of the country is looking at this election and is wondering what the hell's wrong with you. Your politics are seen as corrupt, and you are seen as clueless - maybe that's true, maybe it isn't, but you sure didn't help the perception. What you did do is re-elect a corrupt oaf with no clout or influence in DC. He'll never be able to rebuild the influence he once had; if you'd elected Carter, at least she could have started saving up chits for later, something Jefferson can't do. This man is going to be indicted, he's going to be arrested, and he is going to go to jail - just look at the facts surrounding his case. When he does, you'll have to have a costly special election to replace him, and that's money you should have spent on recovery.
I hate to get upset with voters, because democracy is important, and I'll never blame someone for electing or reelecting a person of a certain party or philosophy. But corruption isn't a philosophy, Jefferson's reelection harms the NOLA recovery effort, and I don't want him in my Congress. Shame on you, Louisiana. (Full disclosure: I volunteered on Carter's campaign, and met her a couple of times.)