When Eddie Jordan finished first in the Oct. 5 primary for district attorney by a large margin -- 35 percent to 24 percent -- and then won the endorsements of most other candidates, everyone knew second-place finisher Dale Atkins would have to go on the attack to get back in the game. It was only a question of when and how.
Atkins' first attack came late last week. More are likely.
Her first volley focuses on Congressman Bill Jefferson, Jordan's chief political ally and the man with whom Jordan aligned himself after leaving the U.S. Attorney's job last year. The ad notes that Jordan joined Jefferson's political group, the Progressive Democrats, and that his photo appeared on the organization's ballot, with Jefferson's, in the mayor's race earlier this year against then-candidate Ray Nagin. The ad blasts Jordan for saying he wanted to be known as "political" in allying himself with Jefferson, who has a penchant for injecting himself into local political matters. The ad concludes, "Eddie Jordan and William Jefferson -- politics, not prosecution. We stopped them once. Let's stop them again."
A lot of folks were angry with Jefferson in the wake of the contentious mayoral election. Many blamed him for steering the affable Richard Pennington down an uncharacteristic path of negative campaigning and for viciously attacking Nagin, who is now a very popular mayor. Nagin is sitting out the DA's runoff after backing third-place finisher James Gray in the primary. Gray has endorsed Jordan.
The Jefferson connection is not the only potential weakness in Jordan's armor. Many fault him for not prosecuting state Sen. Cleo Fields in the Edwin Edwards case, even though Fields was caught on video stuffing $20,000 in cash down his pants in EWE's office during a meeting with the former governor. Jordan has defended his decision not to prosecute Fields. Look for Atkins to remind voters of that.
But Atkins likewise has controversial supporters, namely retiring DA Harry Connick. The singing DA's endorsement sounded golden in August, but now hits nothing but sour notes. Connick's office dropped pending felony charges against the two men now accused of murdering Chris Briede, setting them free to commit the Briede murder. Worst of all, Connick initially blamed police for not gathering sufficient evidence -- and then claimed the victims of the earlier crimes weren't willing to testify. Cops as well as victims have disputed both claims.
And just last week, Connick tossed most of the corruption charges brought by Nagin's administration against cabbies and city workers in the crackdown at City Hall. There again, Connick blamed cops for not building strong cases, even though in some instances they had confessions. Nagin now says his team is working with the feds.
There's ample fodder for Jordan to return fire, if and when he chooses to do so.
Which means the final days of the DA's race will be a nasty "he said, she said" affair.
In fact, it became that on one level even before the attacks, when fourth-place finisher Franz Zibilich endorsed Jordan -- only to see his wife endorse Atkins 90 minutes later.
It's that kind of race.