On Saturday, a series of unlikely circumstances resulted in Louisiana electing the first Vietnamese American to Congress. Anh ‘Joseph’ Cao defeated nine term Democrat William Jefferson. Among the things that are interesting about this campaign:
- Cao is a refugee from the Vietnam War who came to the US as a child, and whose father spent seven years in a North Vietnamese prison camp. He has no prior political experience.
- Jefferson is under indictment on extensive corruption charges — he is the owner of the infamous freezer with $90,000 in “cold” cash — but he was widely expected to win reelection anyway.
- Cao’s win was helped by an act of God. If not for Hurricane Gustav this election would have been held on the same day as the presidential election, when strong turnout among African-American voters likely would have pushed Jefferson to victory.
- Jefferson himself was the first African-American to represent Louisiana in Congress since Reconstruction.
- The Democratic Party is probably happy to have lost this election, as Jefferson’s corruption trial is supposed to start in early 2009.