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3225La. voters oust indicted Rep. William Jefferson

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  • Greg Cannon
    Dec 6 8:32 PM
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      La. voters oust indicted Rep. William Jefferson

      Cain Burdeau, Associated Press Writer – 15 mins ago

      NEW ORLEANS – Voters in Louisiana have ousted indicted Democratic Rep. William Jefferson and sent a little-known Republican to Congress.

      Unofficial results showed Republican attorney Anh "Joseph" Cao denying Jefferson a 10th term.

      Republicans made an aggressive push to get rid of the 61-year-old incumbent, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, laundering money and misusing his congressional office.

      Cao won a predominantly black and heavily Democratic district that covers most of New Orleans. He will become the first Vietnamese-American in Congress.

      He came to the U.S. as a child after the fall of Saigon in 1975. He went on to earn degrees in philosophy, physics and law.

      Turnout appeared low in the election delayed because of Hurricane Gustav.

      THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

      NEW ORLEANS (AP) — U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, the nine-term Democratic incumbent whose career has faltered since his 2007 indictment on corruption charges, faced an aggressive Republican challenge Saturday.

      Early, unofficial returns from Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District showed Jefferson, 61, trailing Republican Anh "Joseph" Cao.

      With about 55 percent of precincts reporting, Cao had 52 percent of the vote to Jefferson's 43 percent. Two minor party candidates split the remaining vote.

      Cao led in suburban Jefferson Parish but Jefferson was narrowing the gap as returns started to come in from urban precincts.

      Jefferson was expected to win the seat in a heavily black and Democratic district that covers most of New Orleans despite his indictment in an alleged international bribery scheme. He has pleaded not guilty.

      But Republicans mounted a strong late-campaign push emphasizing the corruption investigation.

      He faced Cao, a little-known 41-year-old attorney who is trying to become the first Vietnamese-American in Congress.

      By nightfall, turnout appeared light.

      New Orleans voters had long been loyal to Jefferson, re-electing him in 2006 even after news of the bribery scandal broke.

      "People are innocent until proven guilty," said voter Faye Leggins, 54, an educator and Democrat who moved back to the city six months ago and still has fresh memories of Hurricane Katrina. "He has enough seniority, so he can do a lot to redevelop this city."

      But Republicans saw a shot to pick up a seat. Election Day brought excitement to the state's usually low-key Vietnamese-American community, said David Nguyen, 45, a store manager and Cao supporter.

      "The Vietnamese aren't much into politics," he said.

      A barrage of election-day automated telephone calls on Cao's behalf flooded the district, including a pitch from the national Republican Party. Despite being the underdog, Cao had generated endorsements from some Democrat and green-conscious groups as well as the area's Vietnamese-American community.

      The election was one of two postponed by Hurricane Gustav.

      In western Louisiana's 4th Congressional District, Republican physician John Fleming and Democratic district attorney Paul Carmouche were in a tight race to replace U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, a 10-term Republican who is retiring.

      Both candidates had help from national heavyweights. President-elect Barack Obama recorded a radio ad for Carmouche, while Vice President Dick Cheney helped Fleming with fundraising.

      The national GOP also has backed Cao, an immigration lawyer, with a barrage of advertising that tried to portray Jefferson as corrupt.

      Jefferson easily won re-election in 2006 even as late-night TV comics made him the butt of their jokes after federal agents said they found $90,000 in alleged bribe money hidden in his freezer.

      Prosecutors contend Jefferson used his influence as chairman of the congressional Africa Investment and Trade Caucus to broker deals in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and other African nations on behalf of those who bribed him.

      The 2007 indictment claims Jefferson received more than $500,000 in bribes and demanded millions more between 2000 and 2005, including the $90,000 found in the freezer of his Washington home.

      Jefferson has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, laundering money and misusing his congressional office. No trial date has been set.

      He became Louisiana's first black congressman since Reconstruction when he took office in 1991.

      He also faces the Green Party candidate Malik Rahim and Libertarian Gregory W. Kahn in the race.