Scandal-plagued Louisiana Congressman ousted by little-known Republican

Jake Turcotte

Just like Thanksgiving dinner, there's always plenty of leftovers. And this year's election leftovers were served up in Georgia and Louisiana.

Although this year's Thanksgiving football games provided no upsets (what do you expect when the Lions are scheduled to play the Titans?), there was a big upset yesterday as little-known Republican Anh "Joseph" Cao knocked off the nine-term incumbent William Jefferson in the Second District of Louisiana.


Now, Jefferson had a little baggage going into the election. He's got that federal indictment thing he's fighting. You know, the 16 counts of bribery, obstruction of justice, wire fraud, money laundering, and racketeering.

And then there's that tough-to-explain issue of the $90,000 in cash that the FBI found in his freezer.

Despite this, Jefferson was expected by most to win.  After all, only 11 percent of the residents in his district are registered as Republicans.

Let's bond

Just on Friday the Wall Street Journal quoted Edward Chervenak, a political science professor at the University of New Orleans discussing Jefferson's closeness with the voters.

"Everyone seems to underestimate William Jefferson's personal bond with his constituents," Chervenak said.

As it turns out, Jefferson has a close personal bond with 47 percent of the voters. The other 53 percent preferred a new bond -- with the future first Vietnamese-American member of Congress.

Who is Cao?

As the New Orleans Times-Picayune recounted last week, the guy has quite a story:

Born in war-ravaged Vietnam, Cao fled to the United States when he was 8, learned English, earned degrees in physics and philosophy, and joined the Catholic seminary.
When his views on how best to serve the poor changed, Cao went to law school, began a practice specializing in immigration, settled in Venetian Isles and started a family.

Cao's reaction to the win? Perhaps astonished is the best word to describe it.

"Never in my life did I think I could be a future congressman," he said. "The American dream is well and alive."

Shades of Minnesota

The other race? Looks like a Republican win in the Fourth District as well.

You know it's got to be a pretty red meat place when Vice President Dick Cheney is called on to do some campaigning (which he did for the Republican candidate last month).

If the vote stands up (provisional ballots have yet to be counted), the GOP will win by the slimmest of margins.  As it stands now, Dr. Paul Fleming bested Democrat Paul Carmouche in the contest to represent Shreveport-area constituents by a scant 356 votes.

The seat is being vacated by Republican Jim McCrery who is retiring after 20 years.

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