Saturday, October 14, 2006

Crescent City Politics

Politics in New Orleans has always enjoyed a certain shady reputation. In the light of post-Katrina rebuilding efforts, cronyism and corruption do not seem as charming.

Yesterday Judge Charles Elloie of the Orleans Parish Criminal Court was suspended by the Louisiana Supreme Court for multiple accusations of judicial abuse. Oh, by the way, he is a Democrat. The Times-Picayune reports:

“In a blistering report it handed the court Sept. 27, the [Louisiana Judicial] commission wrote that Elloie needs to be blocked from exercising his powers as a judge because his ongoing bail-reduction practices amount to a "substantial threat of harm to the administration of justice and the public as a whole."

The commission also targeted Elloie's record between Jan. 1, 2000, and Aug. 14, 2004, of illegally releasing people jailed on municipal charges of domestic violence, which the recommendation says was a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The commission's assessment of Elloie's bail-reduction history corresponds to arguments made by the Metropolitan Crime Commission in New Orleans, a nonprofit watchdog group whose leaders for years have criticized Elloie's judgment as a public safety hazard. The group issued a report in 2005 documenting the judge's pattern of lowering bonds.

“Judge” Elloie was already on probation for making false statements during his 1996 campaign and violating judicial nepotism rules.

It is in this climate that the local NOLA Democrats made the surprising decision today not to endorse Rep. William Jefferson, owner of the celebrated freezer, for re-election. He faces several Democrats, including party endorsed State Rep. Karen Carter and Republican Joe Lavigne. In Louisiana, all candidates regardless of party run in an open primary in November. If no candidate reaches fifty percent plus one, the top two face off in a December run-off.

New Orleans may seem like the least likely opportunity for Republicans to gain a seat, but the national party should be looking at it closely. Despite the local party trying to unify behind Carter, Jefferson should remain formidable. Ray Nagin, who seems to still have a following, is supporting him. Lavigne’s website touts surveys showing him holding onto the second place position for a run-off with Jefferson, at which point it looks to be a statistical dead heat.

Democrats are concerned their base is shrinking in New Orleans. Lavigne might have a real shot (although those poll numbers are over a month old.) If control of Congress hinges on one or two seats, the spectacle of Pelosi campaigning for Jefferson in December, would make an investment in the Lavigne campaign worth it. For New Orleans, Lavigne would be a much more effective advocate than Jefferson, regardless of who controls congress. (You can support his campaign here.)