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Mayor's race results tell something about Jefferson successor

With most of New Orleans focused on election returns last Saturday, many miles away the federal government conducted a raid on Rep. William Jefferson’s office, discovering very condemnatory evidence on top of the hot cash he had put in a cool refrigerator in his house found right before Hurricane Katrina. This event may prove more significant than Mayor Ray Nagin’s successful reelection.

As a result, national Democrats have thrown Jefferson overboard, calling for resignations of various kinds. The national party is eager to put out of mind perhaps the most prominent of its trangressors, having no popular positions of their own on which to campaign in the fall elections, in order to try to fool the American public into thinking it is uncorrupt compared to the Republicans and to manufacture that as a campaign issue.

Thus, it has become open season in the Second Congressional District. Historically, chances to nab this spot come far and few between. Jefferson won it 16 years ago and is just one of four, and the only one not married to, or who defeated, or who was Hale Boggs, who has served in the district representing the majority of Orleans since the 1930s. With a very weakened Jefferson pledging he will not resign anything and regardless that he has not indicated that he will not run, ambitious politicians will not let him run unopposed if he does choose to attempt reelection.

However, the results of the mayor’s election tell us much about what kind of candidate can become the next U.S. representative from the city – in part a product of the electoral geography. The district is about 80 percent contiguous with Orleans Parish, except that towards the east about 25,000, almost all white residents are in the First District of Rep. Bobby Jindal, while to the west the Second District encompasses about 115,000, majority black, Jefferson Parish residents. In other words, it is even more heavily comprised of Democrat and black residents.

Therefore, as the recent contest highlighted, Republicans and white candidates need not apply. Further, only black Democrats who had some area-wide political muscle will have a chance (Jefferson, for example, had been at-large city councilman before having lost a bid for mayor). Making matters even more interesting, politicians in this category mostly stood for election this spring, straining their resources for another, almost immediate campaign – although some less so than others.

While it’s early to be discussing who specifically might fill the bill, it would have to be somebody in the mold of Oliver Thomas, at-large city councilman who cruised to reelection a month ago. Officials in his position, the way things are going, stand a better chance of securing the seat than Jefferson does of retaining it.

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