Politics in New Orleans seemed to achieve an unprecedented sense of rationality with the election of Mitch Landrieu last spring. He received widespread support throughout the city and appears determined to clean-up the many messes he inherited.
However, fast forward to this week’s and politics in Louisiana seemed to reverted to it’s messy, unpredictable, and wacky best (for entertainment value) or worst (if you consider a working government to be a good thing). In the race for the U.S. Senate, incumbent David Vitter (R) was pitted against a popular, “blue dog” Democrat in Charlie Melancon. And given Vitter’s public admission to dalliances with the DC madame (he never fessed up to reported visits to brothels closer to home), most wouldn’t give Mr. Vitter the staying power of a snowball on a July afternoon. But, the more Charlie made of Vitter’s indiscretions, the more the incumbent’s poll numbers went up. Vitter won big-time; evidence that the electorate really meant to take their government and their scalawag back.
Melancon’s seat went Republican in the election, which left the 2nd district as the Democrat’s only hope to have a representative in the U.S. House from Louisiana. And the incumbent there was an electoral oddity, even by New Orleans standards. Two-years ago, a soft-spoken Vietnamese-American by the name of Anh (Joseph) Cao, defeated long-time Democratic Congressman William Jefferson. Needless to say, the fact that “Dollar Bill” was being hounded by investigations and indictments (we needn’t mention the $90,000+ in cash found in his freezer), helped the former seminarian become the first Vietnamese-American congressman. So in a year marked by Democratic landslides, a predominately black district did not elect an African-American or a Democrat to Congress.
This year would be different. While Cao proved to be a very moderate Republican, his opposition to healthcare reform and the economic stimulus package did not help him in his district. He was up against Cedric Richmond, a young State Representative from eastern New Orleans and an African-American. Clearly, Cao stood little chance against a popular Democratic opponent who was not under indictment. So in the midst of a Republican, electoral tidal wave, New Orleans sent a Democrat to Congress.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.