Jefferson Parish Sheriff Backs Cao for Congress
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand and five African-American ministers announced their support Monday for Republican U.S. Rep. Joseph Cao's effort to repeat his 2008 election victory.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand endorsed Cao during an afternoon news conference also attended by Cao and the six ministers. Cao faces Democratic state Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans and two independents on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Normand took pains to note that Democratic President Barack Obama, who endorsed Richmond last week, has had good things to say about Cao in the past. Cao has broken with his party to support the president on some issues, although he stuck with the GOP in opposing the 2009 economic stimulus bill. He also voted against the final version of the Democrats' health care bill, objecting to language he said failed to prevent government funding of abortion.

"I can honestly say that there are not many times or many opportunities that you meet someone as special as Joseph," Normand said, praising Cao for supporting funding for anti-crime initiatives.

Cao, the nation's first Vietnamese-American congressman, narrowly won the district two years ago over incumbent Democrat William Jefferson, the state's first black congressman since Reconstruction. Cao benefited from a low turnout in a hurricane-delayed election, as well as from Jefferson's indictment on corruption charges.

Normand is the political heir-apparent to his former boss, the late, longtime Sheriff Harry Lee. He won his job with more than 90 percent of the vote after Lee's death. He said he would not ask his employees to go out and work for Cao, although be believes many will. He said he would lend whatever help Cao's campaign asks for.

Jefferson Parish has less than half as many voters in the district as New Orleans has. Just how much influence Normand could have on the race is unclear. The presence of five black ministers at the news conference lent credibility to Cao's effort to draw black voters. Nathaniel Gains, Earnest Peters, Joseph Walker III, Leo J. Green Jr., and Byron Clay opened the event with a prayer while surrounding Cao and placing their hands on his shoulders.

Richmond, too, has lined up support from many big-name area politicians, including New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

"I was informed by Sheriff Normand months ago about his endorsement and I respect his decision," Richmond said in a news release. "I have always had a good working relationship with the sheriff and if the people of the Second Congressional District elect me as their next Congressman, I will continue working to bring the necessary resources to fight crime in Jefferson and Orleans Parishes."