LA-2: BREAKING -- Jefferson Drops Out of Debate at Last Second

Hate to use "breaking" in a title, but it is what it is.  I am just getting word that "Dollar Bill" has dropped out of the debate moments ago.  More information as I get it -- I'll keep this thread updated with information as I receive it.

Update [2006-12-8 17:7:57 by Tim Tagaris]: Apparently Jefferson's wife is holding a press conference right this minute. I obviously can't make it, since it started 3 minutes ago -- but a friend of MyDD two minutes away from the location is en route. No details on whether or not the debate goes forward without Dollar Bill.

Update [2006-12-8 17:45:43 by Tim Tagaris]: The official reason is that Jefferson couldn't get back to LA in time after the offshore drilling royalty vote this afternoon. BlueSunBelt has more.

Update [2006-12-8 17:58:43 by Tim Tagaris]: Piecing it together: Last night's debate was originally cancelled because of the off-shore drilling vote that didn't go through on Tuesday as scheduled. If it had, we would have had the debate yesterday evening. The debate was to be held tonight and Jefferson wanted to do his part by teleconference from D.C. Carter said "no," it was going to be in person or not happen at all. Jefferson reluctantly, and apparently tenatively agreed, but in the end couldn't make it back in time because the vote happened this afternoon. Still waiting for the call from the "friend of MyDD" at the Jefferson presser.

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LA-2: Pre-Debate Post

I am probably going to be forced to watch the debate in my hotel room, providing a summary when it's over.  Until then, the number of local bloggers writing about the race spiked on election eve and I wanted to provide a bit of flavor for you.  I suppose their relative lack of blogging about the contest is a result of two factors: 1.) They just aren't very excited about either candidate and see Carter simply as the lesser of two evils.  I can respect that, and I suppose it comes from a deeper understanding than I have of the machine politics at play (BOLD vs. Progressive Democrats).  I personally like Karen and think she has a shot to be a representative we can be proud of in D.C., but I've been wrong before.  More important than that has always been the message our support for Karen sends.  As Stoller put it, it's "a symbol" that speaks loudly about corruption and post-k response by the federal government.  2.) In the face of all the problems the region has, they see their representative as almost irrelevant.  For a year and three months they've been left to themselves ... alone, and there is little faith a new face in the House is going to change a damn thing about the feckless response to the storm and the flood.

That said, here's what they have to say on election eve.

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LA-2: Campaign Update / What it Means

In about 48 hours, the polls will close and we'll start getting results in the run-off between Karen Carter and Congressman William Jefferson in Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District.  

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LA-2: Gambling Into Recovery

One of the places I've spent a decent amount of time at while in New Orleans is Harrah's Casino down by the river.  I shouldn't, I know, but I've won and it allowed me to upgrade to a real nice hotel for the final few days here.  My stay at the Days Inn, in one of the rougher parts of the city, culminated with people knocking on my door at 12:30 AM, and 4:30 AM "looking for someone." I don't know exactly what that means, I didn't stick around to find out, but I know people don't "look for someone" in the middle of the night where I am staying now.

But back to the casino -- the place individuals and the state itself have a plan to "get it all back" at the tables.

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LA-2: Zzzzzzzz

This has been a pretty sleepy campaign, at least compared to the Lamont effort.  That's one of the reasons I've looked outside-the-box for other stories non-campaign related.  This entry I wanted to throw up before I post on the local casino later this afternoon.  Aside from the Quarter and the "misery tours," the casino is one of the most popular attractions for tourists (and locals) alike.  It's more of the local attraction I plan on writing about this evening.

Otherwise, today is pretty much a debate prep day for Karen Carter and the campaign.  The big event is tomorrow night.  Otherwise, there isn't much going on today in campaign headquarters.  The internet was down for much of yesterday and all afternoon today so some staffers have packed it in.  After the debate, Friday kicks off a district wide bus tour over two days for Karen and then the voters speak their mind on Saturday.  It's been a pretty traditional congressional campaign thus far.  Karen spends a lot of time fundraising and meeting with community leaders who control votes, events pretty much happen on the fly, and communications staff participates in the traditional press release war back-and-forth with the Jefferson campaign.  

Ultimately, I think Karen is going to win the election.  There are rumors Jefferson is going to look outside his local machine, "The Progressive Democrats," to deliver his displaced voters from other areas.  Because voter turnout is expected to be so low in this race, any real bump/demographic shift in the voters could be enough to deliver the race to the incumbent.  I personally don't see it happening.  As of the last report Jefferson had $117,000 cash on hand and still hasn't filed a single 48-hour report.  I just don't think he can afford the kind of money a real field operation costs, especially one that extends beyond the district and involves bussing voters home and back on a Saturday afternoon.  And I'm still not convinced he isn't holding back funds for his legal defense after the election is over.  Barring the unforseen, I think Karen is going to win this one going away.

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LA-2: The Bridge, The Sheriff and His Campaign Mailing

"The bridge" reared its head on the campaign trail again this afternoon.  During Spike Lee's documentary, "When the levees broke," Karen Carter had harsh words for the Jefferson Parish police who blocked New Orleanians from crossing the Crescent City Bridge into Gretna.  Sheriff Harry Lee, part of the team who made the call sending police with dogs and shotguns, was furious and has been a vocal opponent of Karen throughout the election.  Yesterday, he sent out a mailing to "chronic voters in Jefferson Parish" telling them of his "UTTER CONTEMPT for Karen Carter," and asking them to "Just say NO!" to her campaign.  

Lee, who doesn't live in the district, called a press conference to discuss the mailer and his disdain for the challenger.  He began his non-endorsement/endorsement of Congressman Jefferson by attacking Karen Carter on choice and gay marriage.  He said that he didn't necessarily disagree with her, but that "80 to 90 percent" of the people in Jefferson Parish did.  Then he played a clip of Karen's Spike Lee interview and railed against her for about 3 minutes before taking questions from the press.  

Unfortunately, it appears that Lee, a lawman, might find himself running afoul of FEC regulations in his zeal for revenge.  He admitted during the q&a that the mailing cost $14,000 -- paid for by his Sheriff's campaign committee fund.  Big problem, that's illegal under FEC rules.  What's more, the disclaimer on the mailing says, "Paid for by Harry Lee," which is not the name of his campaign committee.  Finally, when quizzed on the subject by reporters (and me) he said that if he ran afoul of the rules he would pay for it out of his own pocket ... also illegal.  I stuck around after the press conference to ask some more questions (camera turned off -- I'm no Connecticut Bob) and it became clear to me that whoever was advising Lee believed that if it wasn't an actual endorsement of Jefferson, Lee wasn't bound by spending limits and the money (if over a certain amount) didn't need to come from a political action committee.  Lee also really believes that worst case scenario he can pay for it out of his own pocket.  He abruptly ended our back and forth by saying his lawyer had it all figured out.  I wish Adam B. was with me, but we'll see how it turns out ... No word on if anyone is going to step up and file the FEC complaint.

Finally, the video linked above explains why Lee wouldn't let people cross over the bridge into New Orleans.  It also goes into Jefferson's legal problems with a pretty entertaining exchange between the colorful Sheriff and members of the local media.

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LA-2: It all starts with the levees

There are a number of must-read articles floating around the blogosphere regarding St. Paul Travelers decision to stop"renewing many commercial insurance policies in the New Orleans area" beginning next spring.  Scout Prime, Firedoglake, and Right Hand Thief are good places to start.

What businesses would come back if New Orleans was uninsurable?  What new ones would emerge?  If someone wanted to effectively kill the city, this would be a good way to do it.  When Congress appropriated $1.59 billion dollars last year to "restore the existing hurricane protection infrastructure" it specified rebuilding levees to protect against the "equivalent of a fast-moving Category 3 hurricane." Category Three just isn't good enough ... not for the people who died, were stranded, or lost everything in August 2005.  And it's not good enough for the insurers who cite the "state of the rebuilding of our levee system as the primary reason for their decision."

I wrote yesterday about making the Gulf Coast a priority during 101st hour of the new Democratic Majority.  A template for action created by Congressmen Taylor (MS) and Melancon (LA) already exists.  The report, "Katrina and Beyond," notes the importance of rebuilding the levees to protect against Category Five storms:

Congress should mandate the construction of a Category 5 levee system and corresponding flood control structures to ensure protection for all residents of metropolitan New Orleans.

To move forward with the construction and rehabilitation of the hurricane protection systems in Louisiana and Mississippi, it is in the best interest of the Nation's taxpayers to ensure that all construction meets the realistic threats of future storms.  Wetlands subsidence, land erosion, and global climate change have all contributed to the Gulf Coast's increased vulnerability to powerful hurricanes.  The mission of USACE on the Gulf Coast has already accounted for a significant investment of taxpayer dollars; it would be negligent not to build meaningful protection.  The incremental cost involved in constructing Category 5 levees is small compared to the lives and property spared by real hurricane protection.

Rebuilding the levees to protect against the most unimaginable of storms is quite possibly the most important way to ensure the people written off after Katrina are able to rebuild without being written off again, by insurers.  As the Taylor/Melancon plan notes, not only is it the right thing to do, but it's good business as well.

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LA-2: The 101st Hour

I'll be honest, I came down here to NOLA with the plot outline already largely constructed in my mind.  I would write a bit about the campaign, maybe we'd have a hand in defeating William Jefferson, and we'd send a message that Democrats don't tolerate corruption on either side of the aisle.  That was the talking point, at least.  I am still convinced we should help Karen Carter, but for a different reason, one Matt touched on this morning.

A lot has been made of the first 100 hours in the House after Democrats take control this January.  There's the minimum wage, cutting interest rates on student loans, and lowering prescription drug costs for Medicare patients.  But there is nothing in there about assistance for people in the Gulf Coast.

Maybe in the 101st hour?

On the one year anniversary of the storm Nancy Pelosi said,"We must recover the sense of urgency and common purpose that Katrina evoked and we must answer, finally, the challenge it placed upon our national conscience." She also offered to re-direct earmarks set aside for her district and use them to assist those affected by the storm and subsequent flood -- Pelosi said the people of her district would be "proud of that."

Post-K recovery is indeed a challenge placed upon our national conscience, and I have little doubt the Democratic Congress will make the people of our country proud when they address the issue head-on ... hopefully in the 101st hour.  I know everyone is giddy about immediate investigations into what went wrong, it's another chance to whack the Republican Party for its inability to govern and protect the people of America.  We'll get those. But there is also a template for action provided by Democratic Representatives Melancon (LA-3) and Taylor (MS-4) called, "Katrina and Beyond" that addresses the regions' needs and a legislative plan for action in the new Congress.

The plan addresses an on-going insurance crisis continuing to plague people of the of region attempting to not only settle claims from the past storm/flood, but will leave many without coverage if and when the next "storm" happens.  The plan also makes re-building the levees the levees a priority:

Congress should mandate the construction of a Category 5 levee system and corresponding flood control structures to ensure protection for all residents of metropolitan New Orleans.

We are still at a point in New Orleans where cramped trailers are used as classrooms, with many schools still nowhere near opening for students. The plan also speaks to public infrastructure, health care, re-equiping the National Guard given the stress Iraq has placed on them, establishing "waterborne delivery capability" for relief supplies, and "relieving FEMA of its recovery mission and reassign those responsibilities to the appropriate federal agencies" all but round out the plan.  Finally, the current Congress looks set to vote this week on a plan allowing offshore drilling in the region with the funds directed to"restore our coastal wetlands and protect our people and communities from future hurricanes." I know the offshore drilling question makes a lot of folks uncomfortable, but fwiw it's a compromise bill that has near universal support in the area.

But back to the reason MyDD sent me to New Orleans.  I still believe we need to elect Karen Carter.  Stoller talked a lot about symbols in his post, and I believe our support of Karen can be a powerful one -- one that sends a message more powerful than simple constituent letters to an incoming Majority that assisting the people of the Gulf Coast after the last storm and protecting them from the next one should be a HIGH priority in the new Congress.  

The first 100 hours are mapped out, but how about the 101st?

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LA-2: Worse, Much Worse Than I Made It Sound

A few days ago I wrote about September 2, 2005.  That was the day William Jefferson comandeered a humvee to retrieve personal affects from his home as people were still being rescued from rooftops.  All told, Jefferson's escapade tied up one Hummer, a five ton truck and one rescue chopper.  Soon after, Nightline did a report on the incident, and it was worse, much worse, than I made it sound.  Take a look.

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LA-2: Karen Carter Loves Teh Gay

I gotta believe Congressman Jefferson thinks the curtain is coming down next Saturday.  You couldn't put poll numbers infront of me that spoke louder than his actions over the past week.  First, he took the near unprecedented step of calling for more debates with a challenger.  Now the congressman's down-the-stretch television ads seek refuge in political position of last resort: gay marriage.  Check out the hardcore fundie imagery Jefferson uses in his newest ad.

Don't be fooled by the fact Congressman Jefferson had a 100% rating from the HRC and choice groups in the past -- this is two straight closing ads by his campaign focusing on social issues in an race that will ultimately be determined by one issue: Katrina.  

Like most close elections, who can get their voters to the polls will be the deciding factor.  I don't even think Jefferson's focus on these issues is primarily designed to directly convince voters to cast their ballots agaisnt Karen Carter.  Gay obsession will change minds in areas where your neighbor's home is still boarded up while the "X" remains on the front door.  

These ads are about mobilizing the black churches in the district, primarily in the West Bank (Jefferson Parish) where religious institutions drive votes.  I suppose he can also hope to pick off votes among Republicans Uptown, a group among which Carter is expected roll.  

But in New Orleans, the ad makes little sense to me.  It's an issue of priorities and gay marriage isn't likely to be near the top of the list among anyone here.  I have seen little evidence of sophisticated field programs within either of the campaign structures.  GOTV in the city is going to happen through well-established local political organizations like Carter's group, BOLD, and Jefferson's "Progressive Democrats." 

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