Republican Congressman Joseph Cao, who is already facing strong opposition from Pennsylvania Avenue and Perdido Street (New Orleans City Hall), can add Howard Avenue to obstacles he will have to overcome in his quest for a second term in the US House of Representatives as the Times Picayune has cast its lot behind Democratic state representative Cedric Richmond's bid for Congress.
The paper's position was a surprise, considering Richmond’s political baggage in contrast with the ex-seminarian's near pristine record in his brief time in office.
Why would the Times Picayune, an entity that dresses itself up as an advocate for reform and good government, come out against Cao? And yes, I use the word against because Cao is the incumbent and to support a challenger is tantamount to calling for his removal.
One longtime veteran of the journalism community speculated the TP was looking to bet on winners, hence they also endorsed US Senator David Vitter's re-election bid, as if they were trying to handicap a parlay.
Richmond is the heavy favorite as he possesses far more advantages than the incumbent even during this decidedly favorable political environment for the GOP- at least nationally. The district is majority black and even more heavily aligned with the Democratic Party and much of the New Orleans white political establishment has lined up behind Richmond.
However, I've seen where the TP has embraced hopeless candidates for office. Does the name Greg Marcantel ring a bell? The mayor of Jennings was the endorsed Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 1995 and received 6% to finished in 4th place. Yet the Times Picayune backed his candidacy over three better-known, better-funded candidates, including then-Public Service Commissioner Kathleen Blanco.
Perhaps hedging their bets on the winner was a factor. But I think ticket balancing was their main motivation.
In their election recommendations, which appeared on Friday, the Times Picayune endorsed Vitter, Richmond and 1st District incumbent Republican Congressman Steve Scalise. They stayed out of the general election for US Representative in the sprawling Third District, which runs along the coast from Shell Beach west to New Iberia. They're also backing Republican Jay Dardenne for Lieutenant Governor.
So in terms of major elections the Times Picayune is with 3 Republicans and a Democrat. But that doesn't get them off the hook in the Second District.
If their endorsement Richmond was made because of concern that they will be seen not supporting enough black candidates and/or Democrats, it’s unacceptable.
The role of a credible media entity that makes endorsements, particularly one that is as established as the Times Picayune, is to reject populism and offer unbiased, sound counsel to the public, no matter what it does to their advertising page or circulation. They have the resources to investigate, research and present the most compelling arguments for ideas and candidates.
The editorial board or whoever calls the shots on endorsements at the newspaper should not deliberate in the same manner and cold calculation that a political organization utilizes when seeking to balance their election ticket.
Cao has already had to confront disappointment of being misled, rather LIED to by the President of the United States who preached about the need to work together regardless of party only to cut his first and only campaign ad against the man he called his favorite Republican.
Now Cao has been abandoned by the same entity that lectures political and government morality on a daily basis. And the media have the audacity to complain about the rise of cynicism by the public?
Joe Cao was both an unconventional Republican congressional candidate and congressman. How do you think this snub went over with him?
The Times Picayune's endorsement of Richmond should not be viewed as a reflection on Cao but rather a reflection on themselves. Though they possess all the power and influence that comes with buying paper by the ton and ink by the barrel, the Times Picayune has just lost all moral authority to wag their fingers as politicians.
When an entity like the Times Picayune endorses candidates, because of their reach, it goes beyond a mere blessing: they're facilitating their election. And when they should know better, the blame for sins committed by their candidates can be left at their doorstep, especially when the candidates they pick often cite their editorial endorsements as evidence of their good character.
And when it comes to a member of Congress, the Times Picayune won't be able to bury his mistakes in the same journalistic potter's field that they charitably call the "corrections and clarifications" section on page two, which is the hardest page to read in a newspaper
The staid Crescent City publication might end up regretting its endorsement of Richmond, just as they surely have of other unwise decisions such as their prior support for Edwin Edwards' first run for governor in the early seventies, the proposed Riverfront Expressway and Obama's presidential candidacy (how’d that drilling moratorium thingy work out for ya?!).
And so it is up to the voters of the Second Congressional District to do the job the Times Picayune is unwilling to do: act to prevent the rebirth of the New Orleans political machine by voting to keep Cao.