Nathan Stubbs

Joseph Cao's improbable bid to unseat Dollar Bill

by Nathan Stubbs

He’s just been endorsed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. And his primary opponent was recently indicted on 16 counts of corruption by a federal grand jury. Despite these obvious advantages, Republican Anh “Joesph” Cao is still a huge underdog in tomorrow’s election for the 2nd Congressional District in New Orleans. The Vietnamese-born Republican candidate goes up against African American Democratic incumbent William Jefferson in a majority black, heavily Democratic district. Despite being under indictment, Jefferson recently trounced six opponents in the 2nd District’s Democratic primary. His re-election tomorrow is considered such a foregone conclusion that he is getting almost no public support from the Democratic Party or from any high-profile party leaders, who would prefer to keep their distance from the indicted politician nicknamed "Dollar Bill" for his obsession with money (Jefferson’s trial is scheduled to begin next year). It’s a stark contrast to the state’s other congressional runoff tomorrow, in Shreveport’s 4th District, where Democrat Paul Carmouche has been raking in money from the national Democratic Party and recently got President-elect Barack Obama to cut a radio ad for him. Eugene Green, Jefferson’s campaign manager, tells the Times Picayune, “the bottom line is we are doing what we’ve been doing. It’s a real grass-roots effort.”

Joseph Cao’s campaign is banking on a heavy anti-Jefferson vote turning out, in addition to complacency from Jefferson’s supporters. Political pundits have said that Cao will need white voter turnout to be approximately 10 percent higher than black turnout in order for him to pull off an upset. Republicans say it’s possible. In this election, Jefferson will not have the advantage of being on the same ballot as Obama, or any other candidates. Cao is also getting heavy support from the state GOP, and yesterday picked up the endorsement of Gov. Bobby Jindal.  Jindal released the following statement yesterday in support of Cao: “Washington is broken and in desperate need of reform. Joseph Cao is a community leader committed to a reform agenda in Washington, and he will be a strong ally in advocating for New Orleans’ recovery and rebuilding efforts to help grow our economy and create more jobs for our people.”