Political State

Ieyoub Eyeing a Party Switch?

ichard Ieyoub once reigned as one of the golden boys of Louisiana politics. He holds the record for votes secured in a state election with his landslide victory as attorney general in 1991. Ieyoub served three terms as the state's top legal official, but suffered narrow defeats for U.S. Senate in 1996 and for governor in 2003.

The Lake Charles politico has been a quintessential Democrat during his career, dating back to his days as Calcasieu Parish District Attorney. But reports are circulating that Ieyoub is considering a move to the Republican fold. He did nothing to discount a move last week. Asked about the rumors, Ieyoub cheerfully replied, "I have no comment on that."

It would seem that Ieyoub might passionately discount any flirtation with the GOP after logging a career infused by votes from African-Americans and blue-collar constituents. But the 61-year-old proven vote-getter would be a prize catch for state Republicans and could hardly be blamed for entertaining overtures to break through to the other side. Ieyoub could emerge as a challenger in 2007 to Gov. Blanco, the candidate he embraced in her runoff against Bobby Jindal two years ago.

Blanco and Ieyoub were a potent force in the final days of that campaign, but if there is an Ieyoub switch in the offing, Jindal might end up endorsing his former adversary. National Republicans are seeking diversity in the ranks and would relish the sight of an Indian-American backing a Lebanese-American in a Deep South gubernatorial race.

Ieyoub has found fellow Democrats his most menacing foes in the last decade. He missed a runoff for the Senate against Woody Jenkins by an eyelash nine years ago, and he contends Sen. Mary Landrieu played dirty politics to nudge past him into second place in the primary. In 2003, Buddy Leach took away a part of the Ieyoub base, leaving Blanco as the Democrat to battle Jindal. Ieyoub finished a close third in the race.

Friend and supporter Jim Bernhard of the Shaw Group is now the chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party. Bernhard makes it even less likely that Ieyoub will defect to the GOP. But Ieyoub is a man who embraces change. He probably has one good race remaining, and as a Republican, Ieyoub could challenge Landrieu or Blanco and have a fighting chance of prevailing.

As a Democrat, this seasoned politician must wait until he's 64 years old in 2008 to go toe to toe with U.S. Sen. David Vitter, and there may be ample candidates inside the Democratic fold. Ieyoub has a substantial record and sizable ambition, and soon political junkies will know if the Republican Party is large enough for the Lake Charles heavyweight.


Federal agents raided two residences occupied by New Orleans Congressman Bill Jefferson this month. Reports quote unnamed sources as saying cash was seized from a freezer in the process. Jefferson attorney Michael Fawer says any information in the case should be put on ice, and the high-profile lawyer chides the feds for allegedly leaking the story.

Some pundits are preparing a political obituary for the eight-term U.S. House member, but Jefferson is used to beating the odds. He was born in Lake Providence, one of the poorest towns in America. After earning a diploma from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Jefferson collected a law degree from Harvard. While serving in Congress, he added a master's degree to his resume.

Jefferson is a soft-spoken, lanky man and a consummate schmoozer. He has been involved in business dealings on a couple of continents, and there is speculation that his associations in Africa are at the center of this probe. It's too early to count Jefferson out, and his defense will be vigorous with Fawer at the helm. The feds are also playing to win this one by placing the case in a largely white Republican suburb of Virginia, not in Washington D.C., where Jefferson lives away from New Orleans.

Six years ago, Jefferson ran for governor and finished a distant second to Mike Foster in the race. In defeat, he solidified his standing as the most prominent African-American politician in Louisiana. The Second District congressman succeeded Lindy Boggs in the House and has rubbed shoulders with some of the most prominent politicians in America during his 15 years on Capitol Hill.

The former Louisiana lawmaker, who sometimes was called "Dollar Bill" for his ability in the state Senate to attract funding for programs near and dear to New Orleans, is now derisively called the same name in some quarters. He's likely to face a forgiving electorate next year, but his career ' and freedom ' could be at stake if he is indicted.