The Reality of Bill Jefferson’s Renomination and the Prospect of the Flanagan Effect
It wasn’t the stuff of Babe Ruth’s famous called shot to center field in the 1932 World Series, but the voters of predominantly-New Orleans Second Congressional district in their infinitely infamous wisdom once again proved me right in the recent Democratic Primary.
On October 1st, I predicted that a segment of the Louisiana electorate would giddily vote against their own interests by embarrassing this state, keeping Congressman Bill Jefferson’s political career on life-support.
By a resounding 25%, the registered Democrats, Independents and unaffiliated voters in the Second gave Jefferson a plurality of the vote and a 5 point lead on former WDSU television reporter Helena Moreno.
As we approach the runoff between Moreno and Jefferson on the national election day when black turnout is expected to be through the roof for Barack Obama, the Democratic nomination battle in the Second District is more of a fait acompli than the supposedly already decided presidential race.
Proof of this? None of the four other major candidates, who all apparently had a problem with Jefferson occupying the seat around qualifying time, have yet to endorse Ms. Moreno, including State Representative and third-place finisher Cedric Richmond who called the incumbent an embarrassment in radio advertisements.
If you ever want to know why Louisiana and New Orleans is a political morass, you only have to look to your elected officials who refuse to stand up against corruption out of fear of potential retaliation from voters who tolerate such behavior for reasons that defy logic and reason.
The deciding factor in the election won’t be the sack of marked bills found in the congressman’s freezer or his lack of effectiveness on Capitol Hill despite this being a time when the New Orleans area desperately needs a strong advocate but racial loyalty.
Just as near solid black support largely paved the way for Ray Nagin’s re-election as mayor, the congressional primary’s second round will also pivot on black support. The big difference between the mayoral runoff and the Jefferson-Moreno runoff is that a significant portion of the white vote (registered Republicans) is excluded from participating because of the closed primary.
Though many whites view Jefferson as the latest machine politician to get his comeuppance, many blacks believe that the congressman is just another victim of the white political establishment.
Ironically, President George W. Bush, a figure particularly loathed in the black community, has shown no reluctance to appearing with the indicted congressman on trips to the region, unlike the Democratic house leadership which has tried to maintain a balancing act of shunning Jefferson while not rankling members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Jefferson’s sole pocket of political support in the Beltway.
Assuming he survives November 4th, and I will happily take bets with those who don’t think he will, the last obstacle to Jefferson’s re-election will be in December when he faces Republican attorney Anh Cao.
If the Democrats expand their current House majority by over a dozen seats, don’t look for Nancy Pelosi to come to Jefferson’s rescue in December. If Moreno keeps the margin close (no less than ten points), Jefferson could fall victim to the “Flanagan Effect”.
Though Illinois Congressman Dan Rostenkowski was in a safe Democratic district and chaired the powerful Ways and Means Committee, not even the patronage gravy-train he steered to his home turf could erase the taint of the House Post Office scandal.
Before being sent to prison, the Chicago politician suffered perhaps an even greater indignity when Republican challenger Michael Patrick Flanagan upset Rostenkowski. To nobody’s surprise, Flanagan’s stay in Washington was brief as he was soundly defeated for re-election by 28-points only two years later. In something that probably says a lot about that district, the man who ousted Flanagan would later find himself immersed with his own legal problems, Tony Rezko beneficiary and future governor Rod Blagojevich.
Just as many regular Chicago Democrats could better stomach a one-term Republican than continue living with the shame of giving their blessing towards the re-election of the corrupt Democratic incumbent, maybe enough New Orleans area Democrats opposed to the incumbent’s re-election would be willing to vote for a one-term Republican in order to take Jefferson out before the Feds do.
Mike Bayham is a political consultant in south Louisiana and posts his weekly political column at www.mikebayham.blogspot.com. He can be contacted at Mike Bayham@yahoo.com.