« | »

William “Freezer” Jefferson Is Re-Elected

From a joyous Associated Press:

Jefferson re-elected

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Cain Burdeau

U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, the eight-term incumbent Democrat whose campaign for re-election was overshadowed by a federal bribery probe, won re-election Saturday in a battle against a well-financed fellow black Democrat.

With 38 percent of the precincts counted, Jefferson, Louisiana’s first black congressman since Reconstruction, was defeating state Rep. Karen Carter with more than 60 percent of the vote. Carter was unable to capitalize on a scandal that included allegations the FBI found $90,000 in alleged bribe money in Jefferson’s freezer.

In a concession speech, an upbeat Carter, 37, embraced family members and pledged to work with Jefferson, especially on the area’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

"I guess the people are happy with the status-quo," said Carter.

Although voters apparently are giving him the presumption of innocence he asked for, his victory may further cloud the perception of New Orleans as a place that tolerates political corruption. Since Katrina, the city’s boosters have made changing that image a top priority as New Orleans tries to win more help in its recovery.

City Councilman Oliver Thomas said Jefferson’s victory will make the recovery from Katrina much more difficult. "People are watching this election all around the country and I can only imagine what they are thinking. It will be very difficult to go back to them and ask them to trust us with the money we need here."

Susan Howell, a University of New Orleans political analyst, said the federal probe will hamper Jefferson and Louisiana’s national image. "He’s going to go back into Congress and essentially be ineffective. I think it will be terrible for this state’s image, and it was already not very good."

Bob Moffet, president of the Alliance for Good Government, a citizens group that endorsed Carter, was more direct. "This is almost like putting a stake through the heart. Who would want to come here and do anything? "You might as well pardon Edwin Edwards and let him and let him run for office."

Jefferson’s supporters were more optimistic.

"I always knew he was going to win. Look at his record — he has a record of proven success," said Athena Simmons, a teacher. "Until someone can show me proof, it did not happen. And that’s my position," she said about the FBI allegations.

Jefferson, 59, has been handicapped by a wide-ranging investigation into allegations that he took bribes — including $90,000 allegedly found in his freezer during an FBI raid — 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. Running on a mixture of religion and populism, Jefferson managed to outflank Carter — who raised nearly five times more cash — by relying on his political wits and allies he has built up over 16 years in office.

Despite it being a race between two black candidates, the election was defined by race as Carter drew widespread support among whites while blacks largely supported Jefferson.

Jefferson’s 2nd Congressional District includes most of the city of New Orleans as well as portions of neighboring Jefferson Parish. In Jefferson Parish, complete but unofficial returns showed Jefferson defeating Carter by a margin of more than 2-1. The race was very close in the city of New Orleans.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee earlier in the week called a news conference to blast Carter for her charges, made in director Spike Lee’s documentary on Katrina, that parish officials were racist for turning back mostly black New Orleans residents who tried to see refuge in Jefferson in the chaos following Katrina.

Robert Moffet, president of the Alliance for Good Government, an influential citizens group that endorsed Carter, said Jefferson’s win will add to the morose state of the city.

He said more people are thinking about leaving because they are fed up with crime and disappointed that Katrina has not changed the old ways of doing business in politics. "There’s a chill right now," Moffet said. "It’s like a bad dream that you can’t get out of."

Saturday evening, about 50 people gathered at the Carter election headquarters to watch the results come in. They filled plates with chicken wings and meatballs and gathered in front of televisions on each side of the room, waiting for returns.

The group was subdued as returns showed Jefferson ahead.

"We’re cautions, the early returns are not encouraging, but we hope things will change when some key precincts come in," said campaign spokesman Ken Carter, the candidate’s father.

Looking back, Carter said he felt they had done all they could. He did however regret the tone of the campaign in the final stages.

"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." Jefferson’s seat is one of the nation’s last unresolved midterm races, and the eight-term congressman was in danger of becoming the only Democratic incumbent to lose.

Jefferson, a Harvard law school graduate first elected to Congress in 1990, was forced into the runoff against a fellow Democrat when he failed to win 50 percent of the vote in a crowded open multiparty primary. Karen Carter had been seeking to become the first black woman from Louisiana elected to Congress.

Jefferson 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 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.

Looks like "Pinky" Reid and Nancy Pelosi’s plans to give us the most honest Congress ever is proceeding as planned.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, December 10th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

23 Responses to “William “Freezer” Jefferson Is Re-Elected”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

« Front Page | To Top
« | »