Next Tuesday, Nov. 7, voters across America will go to the polls to choose a new Congress and one-third of the United States Senate. In many ways, this national election will be a referendum on President George W. Bush and the Republican congressional leadership. For most of America, the central issues will be the war in Iraq and the salacious scandal surrounding Republican Congressman Mark Foley of Florida. Both issues portend bad news for the GOP.
Here in Louisiana, however, those issues are barely on the radar screen. Louisiana has long been one of the most supportive states when it comes to our nation's security at home and abroad, and we have sent more troops into combat per 100,000 residents than most if not all other states since the first Gulf War. And the Foley scandal, even though it involves a teenaged former page sponsored by Republican Congressman Rodney Alexander of Monroe, has caused barely a ripple here. To the extent scandals matter, the ongoing criminal investigation into Democratic Congressman Bill Jefferson of New Orleans is front and center, even for folks who don't live in the Second District. A smattering of local and special elections is also on the ballot across the state, along with eight proposed amendments to the Louisiana Constitution.
In this space last week, we presented our recommendations with regard to the constitutional amendments. This week, we weigh in on the congressional and special elections. Above all, even if our readers disagree with our suggestions, we urge everyone to vote next Tuesday. In these post-Katrina times, it is more important than ever for citizens to make their voices heard.
Congress, First District
In his freshman term, Republican U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal secured House passage of a far-reaching bill that would generate billions in offshore oil and gas royalties for Louisiana. That bill is now in conference with House and Senate negotiators, who were unable to reach a compromise before Congress recessed for the elections. Negotiations are expected to resume when Congress returns in mid-November. Although few believe Jindal's plan will prevail over the Senate's more moderate version of offshore revenue sharing, it is remarkable that a first-term congressman could steer such a measure through the House, particularly after so many others failed to do so for more than four decades. That achievement is a testament to Jindal's tenacity and his ability to work with lawmakers representing many diverse interests. He also has called for speedy investigations into the Foley scandal and for criminal charges against any who broke the law, regardless of party. He has earned the respect of his colleagues and of voters, and we heartily endorse his re-election.
Congress, Second District
The incumbent in this district, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson, has proved himself both unworthy and unable to serve a district that is starved for honest, effective leadership. The sordid details of his involvement in an alleged scheme to enrich himself and his family members via bribery of African officials -- and possible extortion of American business people -- has made him a poster child of congressional arrogance and excess. His own party leaders have booted him off the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, a clear signal that he no longer has the respect and cooperation of his peers. Without that, he cannot effectively represent his district. It's time for a change.
Twelve candidates have qualified to run against Jefferson, giving voters a diverse field from which to choose. In our view, one candidate stands out as having the experience, integrity and ability to step into this important job and make a difference right away -- state Rep. Karen Carter. Elected to the state Legislature in 1999, Carter currently chairs the House Insurance Committee, where she impacts one of the most important areas of post-Katrina legislation. A graduate of Tulane Law School, Carter grew up in local and national politics but has managed to remain free of political scandal. In fact, throughout her career she has demonstrated an ability both to work with others and to think and vote independently on key issues. Her leadership role in out-of-the-box education reforms and economic development programs proves that she can get things done and is not afraid to shake things up. At the same time, Carter's record shows that she does not seek public office merely for the ego stroke; her ambition is to serve and serve well. We believe she will do just that if elected to Congress, and we urge our readers to elect Karen Carter.
State Representative, District 97
J. P. Morrell
Former House District 97 Rep. Arthur Morrell was elected clerk of Criminal District Court in May, creating a vacancy in this district. In the race to succeed him, we recommend his son, attorney J. P. Morrell.
Like many others, we take a dim view of political dynasties. Then again, a person's last name should not automatically disqualify him or her from public service. Morrell's experience as a public defender will enable him to attack the problems plaguing the local criminal justice system. He also has been involved in his community as a neighborhood civic leader and public school volunteer. We encourage our readers in District 97 to elect J. P. Morrell as their new state representative.