[Hat tip to Indy Voter for the link]
Any question on the difference between Democratic and Republican voters on issues relating to corruption?
Well, look at the record, because by now there have been a number of primaries in which the issue of corruption has been raised. Earlier this year Georgia Democratic voters got rid of Cynthia McKinney in a primary. Hank Johnson thumped McKinney 59-41% and will be the new congressman from the district, and presumably the former county commissioner will uphold the duties of the job as voters expect of him but which McKinney, who had some corruption issues even before her infamous run-in with Capitol Hill police, failed to do.
And now, a couple of new polls have come out in the race in Louisiana congressional district two which show William Jefferson in trouble. In Louisiana's complicated electoral system, all candidates of any party compete together on election day, and if no candidate gets 50% of the vote then there is a runoff between the two top vote getters, regardless of party.
a Multi-Quest International poll conducted for Fox-8 TV, Jefferson leads with 19%, followed by Derrick Shepherd at 17%, Troy Carter at 17% and Karen Carter at 15%. Another poll conducted by Dr. Ed Renwick of Loyola University for an independent group of business leaders shows that Jefferson leads with 20%, followed by Karen Carter at 15%, Troy Carter at 15% and Derrick Shepherd at 10%.
Because this is an overwhelmingly Democratic district all of the contenders are Democrats (though there are several Republicans on the ballot, all in single digits). What this makes clear is that William Jefferson, though he may finish first or second on election day, will be forced into a runoff, and when he is, it is likely that the other candidate will be heavily favored.
Also, I had a poster comment on an earlier post I put up that was somewhat like this one, (and in which I mentioned Nancy Pelosi trying to strip Congressman Jefferson of his duties earlier this year) that it was a political calculation on her part. Perhaps that was, but what we are seeing here and in the McKinney vote is bottom up change-- it is ordinary Democrats in those districts who are refusing to vote for people like William Jefferson or Cynthia McKinney. Ordinary voters like you or me are making this change with or without the party hierarchy (for the record the Louisiana Democratic party has endorsed Karen Carter, one of Mr. Jefferson's opponents, but it is entirely possible that the primary voters may not pick her for the runoff.)
Just ordinary voters. And what of the record of ordinary Republican voters in countering corruption this year? Well, it doesn't look very good at all. Tom DeLay won a contested primary with almost 60% of the vote against Tom Campbell and two minor candidates before resigning a month later. In California, after Duke Cunningham went to prison for corruption, voters in a heavily Republican district were happy to elect congressman-turned-lobbyist Brian Bilbray to represent them, even in the middle of the Abramoff lobbying scandal, only because he was a Republican. Republican primary voters in Ohio were only too happy to vote to return Bob Ney to Congress against James B. Harris by a 2-1 margin even though Ney was hip deep in corruption, and then voted for Joy Padgett, Ney's hand-picked replacement in a special election after he agreed to plead guilty and resigned from Congress (though the ride likely ends there, as Padgett is losing to Democrat Zack Space in general election polls). Here in my district in Arizona Rick Renzi has been listed by a variety of citizen's watchdog groups as being among the most corrupt members of Congress for years, but again, Republicans here seem to be satisfied with that since none of them even filed to oppose him in the primary. And if the polls are to be believed Rick Renzi is leading in his quest for another trip to Congress. Unbelievable. I guess some voters, rather than voting these guys out would prefer that they remain in office until they are literally pried loose, finger by reluctant finger, from the trappings of power by the criminal justice system, as we saw a couple of weeks ago with Ney.
Let me put it another way. I, as a very partisan Democrat normally vote for only Democratic candidates. However, there have been rare occasions when I have voted for a Republican. There has to be a compelling reason, but corruption is such a reason (though not the only one). And I will even name a name (since it is a U.S. Senator who people will likely recognize). One year when I lived in New Mexico, Senator Pete Domenici was opposed by Tom Benavides, who had a reputation for being one of the most corrupt members of the legislature. Not that there was any contest there, to be sure, but even if there had been I would not have been deterred. I pulled the lever for Domenici, a conservative Republican, because I felt that his opponent would be unacceptable as a Senator (who besides the corruption stories, mainly was known for wanting to create a separate county in Albuquerque's South Valley and name it Benavides county.) Politicians who misuse the trust given to them in their official position to line their pockets, line their family's pockets or line their friends' pockets forfeit their right to hold public office. Period. Party is irrelevant in expecting that a politician at least meet that minimum standard.
Now, the other side of the coin. Republicans (and we just had our GOP state treasurer resign this week due to a corruption scandal.) Let me recount to you a real conversation I had a few years ago. This was the day that a $60.4 million judgement against the state of Arizona came down, due to the actions of Corporation Commission (now former Corporation Commissioner since resigning to avoid being impeached by the legislature) Jim Irvin in awarding a contract to his buddies instead of a more qualified bidder. The story broke as Irvin was running for re-election and amazingly he won in one of the closest races in the history of Arizona. The damage award was the headline in the paper the day I had the following coversation:
I was in a library and ran into a lady I know there. I commented on the headline in the paper (which was visible on the rack next to where we were standing). She agreed that it was terrible. I asked her if she had voted for Jim Irvin.
"I don't know, is he a Democrat or a Republican?" she asked.
"He's a Republican," I answered.
Her answer just floored me.
"Then I guess I must have," she said. "I only pay attention to the important races like the President and the Governor, after that I just vote for all the Republicans."
Even in years when I will vote a straight Democratic ticket, like this year, I always take the time to learn about each candidate, at least enough to know that they have the personal integrity to carry out the duties of their office without having a hand in the public till. I probably don't care if they are a jerk personally, or what their sex life is, or what they've smoked, or what they did during Vietnam, but I do expect them to have the integrity in office to carry out their sworn duties both in accordance with the trust that they have been given, and according to the law. If I don't think they will do that, then they lose my vote.
But apparently it seems, based on congressional races this year, that Democratic voters are more likely to think that way than are Republican voters.