|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.