By: Jeff Crouere
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, December 15, 2008
For the first time since 1891, a Republican will represent the 2nd Congressional District in Louisiana. For the first time in the history of this nation, a Vietnamese American will serve in the United States Congress. For the first time in many years, Louisiana is making national news for the right reasons.
These historic milestones were accomplished on Saturday by Joseph Cao, a refugee of South Vietnam, who was elected as the new Republican Congressman for the New Orleans area. In the December 6 special election, Cao won a stunning victory over nine term incumbent U.S. Representative Bill Jefferson (D-New Orleans) 50-47 percent.
Cao is a former Jesuit seminarian and missionary who studied physics and later taught ethics in college. He is an attorney and community activist in New Orleans East who has worked hard rebuilding that community after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Joseph Cao did what scores of other candidates could not do, he defeated Bill Jefferson. Finally, the voters of the second congressional district decided that they deserved better representation. Bill Jefferson is facing a 16-count indictment on serious charges including bribery, racketeering, obstruction of justice and money laundering. Unlike Jefferson, Joseph Cao will be able to join congressional committees and he will not be a pariah on Capitol Hill. Cao will not be distracted by an upcoming trial and possible conviction and he will be able to focus his full attention on serving his constituents.
What is even more incredible about Cao’s victory is that African Americans comprise approximately 64 percent of the staunchly Democratic district, whereas Republicans only account for 11 percent of the voting population. An even smaller minority in the district is the Asian population which registers at an anemic 2.7 percent of the total.
The result showed the arrogance of Bill Jefferson. He admitted on Election Night that he had never met Joseph Cao, but Jefferson is to blame for that situation for he refused every invitation to debate his opponent. It was Jefferson who constantly declined debate offers, not wanting to face the tough questions or suffer the embarrassment of having to explain his indictments. He never once gave an explanation for why he stashed $90,000 cash in his freezer.
What is even worse, Jefferson blamed his loss on his constituents, claiming that they were confused about the election. In fact, the Congressman is to blame for the confusion for he was unable to raise money to advertise his candidacy. Donors did not want to be associated with a congressman known for his multiple count indictment and “cold hard cash.”
The victory strikes a major blow against the reputation of Louisiana as a corrupt state. In recent years, our corrupt Governor was sent to federal prison, voters rejected an indicted Agriculture Commissioner, a New Orleans councilman and a Jefferson Parish state senator who were caught in criminal behavior were removed from office. So, it is clear that Louisiana is cleaning up its act and weeding out the multiple bad political actors who have wrecked havoc on the state.
The rest of the nation should take notice that this is not the same old Louisiana; this is the new and improved version. This is a proud day for the State of Louisiana for not only was a corrupt politician defeated, but Louisiana has now done what has been done in no other state in the nation; elect a Vietnamese American to Congress.
There are approximately 1.5 million Vietnamese living in America today and Louisiana has a relatively small population compared to Texas and California. Nonetheless, a refugee from Vietnam will now represent the people of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish in the U.S. Congress.
Louisiana is now the only state in the nation to have an Indian American as Governor, Bobby Jindal, and a Vietnamese American as a Congressman. Interestingly, both of these ethnic minority elected officials are members of the Republican Party.
The victories of Jindal and Cao should show the way for Republicans on a national level. It is not necessary to compromise on principles, but it is necessary to reach out to a diverse constituency to seek the best candidates who will carry the Republican banner.
To their credit, this is exactly what the Louisiana Republican Party has done to a much more successful degree than any other Republican organization in the nation. The strategy has worked for Republicans have now been elected to six of state’s seven congressional seats and five of the seven statewide elected positions.
On Saturday, as Joseph Cao was winning in the state’s second congressional district, the Democrats lost in the fourth congressional district in North Louisiana. The Republican candidate, Dr. Paul Fleming, won even though his opponent was the recipient of assistance from Barack Obama. The President-Elect recorded phone messages that were used heavily in the district, but it was not enough to overcome the Republican candidate. For the first time since his election on November 4, Barack Obama lost some political capital, thanks to the voters of Louisiana.
At this point, Bill Jefferson’s political career is thankfully over. No doubt, Cao will be challenged by a slew of Democrats in 2010 because the district is predominantly African American and has a majority Democrat registration; however, other more respected African American Democrats will fill the void left by Bill Jefferson.
The state that sent David Duke to a gubernatorial run-off in 1991 is now sending ethnic minorities to positions of great power. The Republican Party has changed for the better and so has the State of Louisiana. These victories should serve as an inspiration to people all over the state, nation and world.
These results send a loud clear message that in Louisiana voters are not concerned with the color of one’s skin, it is the content of their character that is paramount.
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