The William Jefferson Chronicles

Jefferson re-election draws national attention
10:25 PM CST on Monday, December 11, 2006

Ben Lemoine / Eyewitness News Reporter -

Two days after embattled Congressman William Jefferson was re-elected, political analysts said they are still shocked, as Jefferson has been the target of a federal bribery investigation.

Congressman Jefferson took to the podium for the ninth time to claim victory Saturday night, but in other places, many seemed at a loss for logic. Around the country, newspapers and websites have hammered Louisiana voters over the outcome of the election. An online editorial in the Texas Star-Telegram entitled “Stupid is as Stupid Does” read: “Why should we care? We should care because billions of our dollars are going to support and restore this godforsaken swamp of a city…”

And political analysts have said support is suffering.

“We've just re-elected the least-effective member of the House of Representatives,” said UNO political analyst Dr. Susan Howell, who attributed Jefferson’s victory to several factors.

The first was the major impact of Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee’s attacks on challenger Karen Carter. Second, Howell said age old distrust in law enforcement by African-Americans led many to give Jefferson the benefit of the doubt.

After he was voted off the House Ways and Means Committee because of the bribery investigation, Jefferson’s former aide and an associate plead guilty. Jefferson hasn’t been charged, but some believe his constituents will be the beneficiaries of his tough times in Washington.

“Whether he's indicted next month or next year, he's going to be preoccupied with legal problems as opposed to representing the district. So it's not just a problem with the image of the city and the state, it's a problem with his effectiveness as a Congressman,” said Howell.

National pundits said democrats were hoping for a different outcome of the election, to put the probe to the side.

"They wouldn't have to deal with the problem. But I think you're going to see that they will just avoid Jefferson," said CNN political editor Mark Preston.

With recovery on the line, some of Jefferson’s colleagues have called on the feds to make their move.

"Get on with it. Justice, Attorney General... charge him or don't charge him. Move on," said Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware.

Until they do, it could be hard for Louisiana to move on as well.

“From here forward, he is definitely damaged goods in Washington,” said Howell.

Jefferson would not discuss the possibility of getting onto any congressional committees after the election. A spokeswoman for Congressman Jefferson would not comment on this story.

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