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Two gals' choices help two guys' Congressional bids

Lost in the recent Legislative shuffleboard has been that two legislators now can feel better about their political futures because of the unanticipated actions of two others.

If anybody had predicted some kind of announcement coming from Democrat state Rep. Karen Peterson about this time it would have been that she was making herself the favorite to win the Second Congressional District by her entry into the contest. Not only does Peterson hold the second-highest position in the state House, Speaker Pro-Tem, but in 2006 she strongly had challenged then-incumbent William Jefferson, then fighting investigation for crimes in office for which he later was convicted.

But Peterson passed on the contest in 2008 while Jefferson was indicted. It was won by present incumbent Republican Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, largely because of the damaged candidacy of Jefferson, but with demographics favoring a Democrat and Cao’s support of a bill that would increase the cost of health care while reducing its quality souring Republicans on him, the winner of the Democrat primary in 2010 can expect election in November.

However, that won’t be Peterson, as almost simultaneously with the announcement of Democrat state Sen. Cheryl Evans’ upcoming resignation of her seat, Peterson announced she would pursue it, had a campaign organization ready to go, and had gotten scheduled her first fundraiser for the Feb. 6 election. Evans, who is leaving to stay in the same area code with her husband whose job has them moving out of state, appears to have with Peterson done a little coordination to give Peterson a head start on capturing the seat.

That Peterson has done so aggressively indicates that she does not have Congress in mind. It would be silly to go for the Senate seat, then to turn right back around and start campaigning for Congress (having delayed that for the Senate race for nearly two months). One could argue this isn’t something too far off from what Rep. Steve Scalise did before winning his Congressional seat – run for the state Senate in 2007, only to compete for the First District seat immediately after. Yet in Scalise’s case the seat came open only concurrently with his state victory – Gov. Bobby Jindal being elected – and also consider that Peterson is giving up her House leadership post. Unless she’s serious about staying in the Senate awhile, if she was just marking time until bagging a win for federal office it wouldn’t make much sense to give up that post.

Regardless of her reasons, this development must please the likes of state Reps. Cedric Richmond and Juan LaFonta, currently the main candidates for the Democrat nominee likely to face Cao. Neither could beat Peterson had she run, so one of them, probably Richmond given the increasing favors shown him by national Democrats, now is the favorite. For which, ultimately, they have to thank Evans’ sense of family togetherness and Peterson’s lack of interest (which may be for the same reason; she also is a relative newlywed who might not prefer spending so much time in Washington).

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