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Race-baiting Richmond feeling suprising heat in contest

With the contest for the Second Congressional District staying closer than almost anybody had imagined it would be at this point, both incumbent Republican Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao and Democrat challenger state Rep. Cedric Richmond have turned up the heat as it still remains too close to call.

While a recent Public Policy Polling effort gave Richmond a 49-38 percent lead (margin of error of four percent), the PPP, which does work exclusively for Democrats, has its polls sampled and questions written and ordered in a way to favor Democrats to the tune of, historically in Louisiana at least, about 10 points when compared to independent polls. Thus, an independent poll (none have been done recently) probably would show Richmond with a narrow lead.

Cao realizes he’s on the cusp yet maybe slipping away – especially since candidate for lieutenant governor and liberal lawyer Democrat Caroline Fayard got into a runoff and therefore can excite her New Orleans base to turn out for Richmond – and launched a media initiative questioning Richmond’s ethical comportment. After all, this strategy, in a much more understated fashion, got Cao past then-indicted, now-convicted former Rep. William Jefferson in 2008.

But while being indicted is one thing, Richmond’s ethical lapses are seen by many in his district as other, trivial things. A number don’t care about his ignoring reporting requirements, law license suspension, lying about his residency for candidate qualification purposes, or bar fights. And while allegations that Richmond used his position in the state legislature to steer money to favored nonprofit recipients and commercial enterprises wouldn’t draw a yawn, in fact it would be expected as part of the mentality shared by many in the district that government is there first and foremost to provide spoils to victors as part of a broader mandate to redistribute wealth.

More interesting is Richmond’s response to Cao’s bringing this information to wider public attention. Defending himself in relation to the revelation that taxpayer dollars allocated to him for office space rental that was going to landlords that are his political supporters, Richmond claimed the rates he got from them were below market.

This nugget of information ought to perk up state auditors and Louisiana’s Board of Ethics. By charging him less than what the going rate would appear to be, and by his accepting that, it could be argued an improper influence relationship was created in that they gained influence not available to others by giving him a break on rent, a situation Richmond should have realized. This doesn’t exactly refute the ethical qualms raised about him.

Richmond also went on the attack, asserting through a spokesman that Cao’s publicizing of the information in the media was akin to “trying to take New Orleans politics back to the bad old days of Leander Perez and the White Citizens Council. Mr. Cao clearly thinks that an orchestrated whisper campaign based on racist stereotypes of African-American men will help him win votes, but those shameful race-baiting tactics have no place in today's New Orleans.”

This is a fantastically ignorant remark. If Richmond knew any history at all, he’d know that Perez and members of the WCC were white supremacists prejudiced against Asians as well. If he really thinks there would be some kind of community of interests between the Vietnamese Cao and these folks, or that Cao as a member of a community that has faced its own discrimination by race would condone appeals of the same, he is as stupid as a lot of his votes in the Louisiana Legislature have been.

As he is engaging in a post-modern race-baiting, Richmond must be feeling the heat. You know it’s going to be a bad year for Democrats when a member of the district’s majority racial group likens the campaign by a member of one of the district’s smallest ethnic groups as “racist.”

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