Jefferson's legal problems have received modest attention in New Orleans, where residents and officials are consumed with rebuilding the city and upcoming local elections. But names of potential challengers are starting to circulate, and political observers are handicapping their prospects.
Not to say there is a conspiracy, but there is a mad media rush to diminish New Orleans' Black political edge. Some in the Black political community will say this is intentional - but, we've reached a certain pinnacle of success in electoral politics and should expect the occassional consequences. Mayor Ray Nagin (D) and Jefferson don't help the situation any - Nagin must exercise a bit more rhetorical control and Jefferson is looking as shady as Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX). Of course, Republicans are thrilled by this:
Jefferson's woes are unwelcome news for his party and have undercut the Democrats' election-year assertion that Republicans have created a "culture of corruption." If Jefferson is indicted and pleads guilty or is convicted, he will have to step down or face expulsion. But if he is indicted and decides to go to trial, he may remain in Congress and stand for reelection -- the course Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) has followed since being charged last year with violating Texas campaign law.
Federal corruption investigations have produced guilty pleas from former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) and have forced Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) to relinquish his committee chairmanship. Investigations also won guilty pleas and the cooperation of former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose plea agreement cited only GOP aides and lawmakers.
The investigation of Jefferson and the recent guilty plea by a former aide give Republicans the chance to argue that corruption in Washington has a bipartisan tinge.
It's not so thrilling to see an African American legislator bearing the burden of of that "tinge." And as the city is much less "Blacker" than it was pre-Katrina, neither elected official's campaign prospects are looking good. The most unfortunate outcome is that the Congressional Black Caucus might be minus one come Fall 2006.