The William Jefferson Chronicles

5 Demos sign up to face Jefferson
His legal difficulties may be central issue
Thursday, July 10, 2008
By Bill Barrow

BATON ROUGE -- U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, making his quest for a 10th term despite lingering public corruption allegations, garnered five Democratic challengers Wednesday, the first day of qualifying.

The candidates varied in how they talked about the 2nd District incumbent. But their comments upon filing campaign documents made clear that Jefferson's legal troubles will be the ubiquitous thread that binds every aspect of the campaign leading up to the Sept. 6 Democratic primary.

"My No. 1 goal is to bring integrity back to this office," said former television news anchor Helena Moreno, even as she said she does not want the campaign to revolve around Jefferson.

Former New Orleans City Councilman Troy Carter highlighted Jefferson's loss of his committee assignments after being indicted last year. "We have not had the benefit of the incumbent, the benefit of power on Capitol Hill," he said.

New Orleans City Councilman James Carter, who is no relation to Troy Carter, and state Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans took different approaches, acknowledging Jefferson only when asked about the case. Richmond never mentioned the congressman by name.

Richmond, a former Jefferson ally, alluded only indirectly to Jefferson by noting the difficulty any member of Congress would have advocating for his district without having any committee seats.

"Look, it's not my job to talk about the other candidates," he told reporters when asked whether he plans to play off Jefferson's legal trouble. "That's part of your job to point out the sins of all the candidates."

The fifth Democratic challenger, Jefferson Parish Councilman Byron Lee, did not address media assembled at the secretary of state's office.

Jefferson, a longtime Democratic Party power broker, did not appear Wednesday at the secretary of state's office, instead qualifying in the afternoon through documents submitted by an aide. He filed to run as a Democrat.

There has been speculation that several candidates might run without a party label, a move that allows a candidate to bypass the primaries and claim a spot on the general election ballot. Candidates who qualified Wednesday could still alter their party identification before the close of qualifying.

 The field could continue to expand as qualifying continues until Friday at 5 p.m.

No one had qualified for the U.S. Senate seat, though incumbent Mary Landrieu, a Democrat seeking her third term, and top GOP hopeful John Kennedy planned to sign up Friday.

Five other incumbent congressmen filed, though none drew opposition from within their own parties, while 3rd District U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, and 5th District U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, had no opposition at all yet.

Party runoffs are scheduled for Oct. 4, with the general election to follow Nov. 4.

In state races, a trio of appellate judges has lined up for the 1st District associate justice seat on the Louisiana Supreme Court. Pursuing the 10-year term are: Judge Roland Belsome, a Democrat who serves on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal; Judge Greg Guidry, a Republican on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal; and Judge Jimmy Kuhn, a Republican from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.

The seat will open with the retirement of Chief Justice Pascal Calogero, a Democrat last elected when the district included all of Orleans Parish. Since then, the district split to add a seventh, overwhelmingly Democratic seat to the highest court. The more Republican remainder of the old district now includes only the northwestern portions of the city, along with parts of Jefferson Parish and several parishes north of Lake Pontchartrain.

In other races, Republican Jay Blossman qualified for another six-year term as southeast Louisiana's representatives on the Public Service Commission. John F. Schwegmann, who held the seat for 15 years before losing to Blossman in 1996, filed to run without a party affiliation.

For state offices, open primaries are slated for Oct. 4, with runoffs Nov. 4 alongside the federal general election.

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Bill Barrow can be reached at or 225.342.5590.

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