by Tim Tagaris, Sat Nov 18, 2006 at 03:01:20 PM EST
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Today I joined a few of the local bloggers for lunch at Liuzza's (pictured, click to enlarge), a tour of some of the flood affected areas, and a discussion about the dynamics in the 2nd Congressional District run-off between Karen Carter and Congressman William Jefferson. Before I get into that, I want to note that I spoke with Congressman Jefferson's Communications Director again today, and we're on for the interview early this week.
The local bloggers (Your Right Hand Thief, Maitri's VatulBlog, Adrastos, Ashley Morris) and I spoke about a number of the important issues informing the decisions of voters in the run-off election. In addition to the regional and social issues dividing voters, the notion of "delivering" for the people of New Orleans (and the West Bank) is also a factor. The people of this area obviously need help, monetarily and otherwise. In addition to re-building portions of the city, there's an expectation the levee walls will be re-built protect against Category Five storms. The cost, as we've all seen, will be substantial. As corruption charges began to really swirl around the head of Congressman Jefferson, Democrats stripped him of his seat on the Ways and Means Committee. Short of the hope a freshly minted Democratic controlled congress will place a priority on rebuilding the city (and other affected Gulf Coast areas), the importance of individual representation within the halls cannot be overstated.
We also talked a bit about the political organizations that exist within the second district. Within the Democratic Party itself, there are multiple "clans" that all have political and GOTV implications of their own. Carter is a member of BOLD -- Jefferson a member of the "Progressive Democrats." Don't let the nomenclature fool you, there isn't much progressive about Jefferson's organization. In fact, on social issues, Jefferson is tacking to the right and blasting Carter (often through surrogates) over her liberal stance when it comes to abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage. When it comes to economic issues, they are both DLC members. I've also heard conflicting reports about the importance of churches and the role they play in mobilizing voters. Best I can tell, in the East Bank (New Orleans area) it's the organizations like BOLD and the "Progressive Democrats" that have the ability to turn voters out to the polls. In the West Bank, it's the churches. During yesterday's endorsement of Congressman Jefferson by State Senator Derrick Shepherd, they were surrounded by no less than five men of the cloth who each took at a turn at the mic; each quite outspoken; each with a body of followers best described as extended family as opposed to simply a congregation. Indeed, the local bloggers believed that Jefferson's support among clergy in the West Bank is a good part of what propelled him to a strong third place primary showing.
After the discussion over a few frosty mugs at Liuzza's, we headed down to the "Lower 9th Ward" we've all heard so much about. It was devastating. Just awful. While we were there we saw cars with license plates from New York and Georgia driving around an area just simply decimated. They called it the "misery tour," and I guess I was on it as well. I'll have video and pictures up tomorrow, but to extend it beyond the simple voyeuristic peek at the destruction and a reminder of what Congress should be doing, a few local folks will talk about the progress made in clearing out the debris and rebuilding the levee that failed (barge crash) which caused the flooding in the Lower 9th.