Cold cash Jefferson ignores media and opponent

NOLA:

With just eight days to go in the Democratic Party runoff for the 2nd Congressional District, the embattled but increasingly confident incumbent, William Jefferson, seems committed to a stay-away strategy, limiting contact with the news media and largely ignoring his opponent, former television news anchor Helena Moreno.

As he awaits trial on federal corruption charges, Jefferson has only staged one campaign event since he finished first in the crowded Oct. 4 primary. And he has yet to share a podium with Moreno, now making her first bid for elected office, although it's possible both will appear today at a rally staged by the Jeremiah Group alliance.

Jefferson took a similar low-profile approach in the first round of voting when he led the field with 25 percent. The incumbent took a pass on gatherings of his six challengers and instead focused his attention on shoring up his loyal voter base, visiting senior citizen centers and churches.

In the runoff, Jefferson's refusal to mix it up with Moreno appears to be founded on the belief he can do so with little risk.

"I don't have anything to prove in a debate," Jefferson said tersely during his lone news conference this month, an impromptu affair after an Oct. 13 endorsement from about two dozen local ministers.

Asked to distinguish himself from his challenger, Jefferson, who is seeking a 10th term, was dismissive.

"Well, it's quite obvious," he said with a laugh. "I've been a legislator for a good long time in the state Senate and the Congress. And she has not, and that's what the job is about. ... I don't have anything to say about Helena Moreno. I think that that speaks for itself, the difference between us -- me and her -- in legislative experience."

Moreno spokesman Greg Buisson said his candidate would relish a face-to-face meeting.

...

His opponent might start by saying she did not keep bribe money in her freezer. If the voters of this district reelect Jefferson, it will send a message that they do not care about corruption.

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