The William Jefferson Chronicles

Race and reform play major role in Jefferson re-election bid
10:48 PM CST on Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bigad Shaban / Eyewitness News

Political powerhouse Bill Jefferson is seeking his 10th term in Congress, but his Republican opponent Joseph Cao hopes to upset that winning streak this Saturday.

Jefferson has been under federal investigation for the past three years and has since been indicted on 16 counts of public corruption. Yet, despite Jefferson's legal woes and politically haunting images of FBI agents raiding his New Orleans Home in 2005, Jefferson won re-election in 2006 and is now hoping for a shot at a 10th term in Congress.

Race is projected to play a major role at the polls. In fact, the very construction of the district was actually based on it.

"That district was created, as it is, to maximize the opportunity for an African American to represent Louisiana in Congress and that is our only African American majority district," said Clancy Dubos, Channel Four political analyst.

But for Republican opponent Joseph Cao, the biggest issue is about effective representation and he says Jefferson was stripped of it.

"He has lost all of his power, he has lost all of his influence," said Cao. "The question here is about reform, you know, about changing the image of Louisiana politics."

But for New Orleans barber Maurice Durio, it's Jefferson who represents that change.

"We need a senior advisor up there," said Durio.

Durio says Jefferson's seniority on the Hill trumps his troubles in the courtroom.

"He's only been charged, he hasn't been convicted," said Durio. "We still support him like he supported us throughout the years. Until we find out different, we're still on his side."

But not everyone is. Many are throwing their support behind Cao. One reason he is not Congressman Jefferson.

"[Jefferson] has been where he is for a long time, but are people really going to trust him?" said Deb McDonald, who supports Cao.

Voters will decide this Saturday in what's expected to be a low, less than 10 percent turn out.

"So we have to see which set of voters seem to be more energized and self mobilized which is going to be a critical factor to go to the polls," said Dr. Silas Lee, political analyst.

Eyewitness contacted a representative with Jefferson's election campaign to request an interview, but our call was never returned. Polls will be open this Saturday from 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.

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