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Opinion: GOP rookie Cao upsets 9-term Rep. William Jefferson in New Orleans

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The Republican Party, devastated by the Nov. 4 loss of the White House and more seats in both houses of Congress, got a shred of good news late Saturday.

Anh Joseph Cao, a little-known 41-year-old community organizer and GOP attorney, knocked off nine-term Democratic Rep. William Jefferson in a stunning upset in Louisiana’s Second District to become the first Vietnamese American elected to Congress.

In recent years Jefferson has been fighting scandals and a federal indictment for money laundering, bribery and misusing his congressional office, which he denies. Last year the FBI reported finding $90,000 in marked bills in Jefferson’s freezer.

But voters in the heavily black (60%) and Democratic (66%) district that covers much of New Orleans had been loyal to him -- until today, when Louisiana held two House elections delayed in the aftermath of September’s Hurricane Gustav.

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Cao came to the United States as a child in the 1975 evacuation of Saigon and earned degrees in law, physics and philosophy. His new district has only 11% registered Republicans, but with about 80% of the votes counted, Cao was winning 53-43.

In the Bayou State’s other House election Saturday, Republican newcomer John Fleming, a doctor, appeared to hold the seat for the GOP by narrowly defeating Democratid District Attorney Paul Carmouche for the spot held for 20 years by Republican Jim McCrery.

President-elect Barack Obama had recorded a radio ad for Carmouche while Vice President Dick Cheney campaigned for Fleming.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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