Tommie Vassel, a New Orleans resident and Orleans Parish Sewage and Water Board member, is considering an Independent run for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District. He isn’t the only independent considering the race, though. Reverend Byron Clay, the immediate past President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is being urged by many to enter the race too.
The common refrain in local political circles has been for over two years that the only way that Second District GOP Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao could win re-election in his very Democratic-leaning district was for multiple credible candidates to divide the African-American vote in the general election. In a breaking story, this newspaper has learned that this possibility could soon become truth.
In an exclusive, long-time Orleans Sewerage and Water Board member Tommie Vassel, a political rising star in Crescent City and former Council candidate, has revealed that he will likely be a candidate in November’s election for the U.S. House of Representative. And, he will run as an Independent.
Moreover, the immediate past President of the national Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Rev. Byron Clay of Kenner–a minister who extensive political connections amongst the Black Clergy–is being urged by many of the liturgical colleagues to run for Congress against Cao as well–as an Independent. Should he stand, Clay would join Vassel and the likely Democratic candidate, State Representative Cedric Richmond, in pitting three prominent African-American challengers against the sitting 2nd District Republican Representative.
Even in a highly Democratic, Black Majority Congressional seat like the New Orleans, South Kenner, and West Bank Jefferson district, two Independents dividing the vote with the Democratic contender might be enough to allow a Republican, elected in a political fluke, to win a second term.
And, even if Cao should lose, either Independent, Clay or Vassel, already enjoys enough political support that either has the potential of besting Richmond. In the “First Past the Post” system adopted in Louisiana Congressional elections almost six years ago, the victor could easily win with just 35% of the vote–or less.
Of course, viable Independent candidates are hardly just a local phenomena, but increasingly stand as an emerging reality in Congressional races across the United States.
The 2nd Congressional District is heavily Democratic, but currently represented by Congressman Joseph Cao because the incumbent Democrat in 2008, William Jefferson, was under corruption charges during the election–Cao won that race with 49.5% to Jefferson’s 46.83%.