Indicted U.S. Congressman Seeks Re-election and Redemption

Before embattled Rep. William Jefferson faces trial next year on charges of bribery and corruption, he's facing voters of his district.

Voters are heading to the polls Saturday in a storm-delayed election to decide whether to re-elect the nine-term Democratic incumbent whose political career has teetered since his indictment.

Jefferson, 61, is expected to win Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District, which covers most of New Orleans, despite his indictment in an alleged international bribery scheme.

Val Schexnayder, who lives in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, told FOX News that she'll be voting for Jefferson because his office helped her rebuild the home she lost to Hurricane Katrina.

Jefferson will need lots of supporters like Schexnayder to defeat a little-known Republican candidate, Anh "Joseph" Cao, who is trying to become the first Vietnamese-American in Congress in a predominantly black and heavily Democratic district.

"The majority of people are frustrated," Cao told FOX News. "They are ready for change."

Cao has been reaching out to disgruntled Democrats in hopes of tipping the balance.

"Mr. Jefferson has been stripped of his committees," Cao said. "His level of influence in Congress is minimal. Basically, nothing has been done in the last three-and-a-half years."

Even so, the incumbent is favored to win.

"I don't think the Republican in this race can garner enough support to prevail," said David Wasserman, an expert on House races at the Washington, D.C.-based Cook Political Report. "This district is still very heavily Democratic."

Vietnamese immigrants began flocking to New Orleans upon the fall of Saigon in 1975. Community leaders estimate that more than 90 percent of the 25,000 Vietnamese-Americans who lived in southeastern Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 have returned.

About 62 percent of voters in the 2nd district are black, two-thirds of them Democratic, while only 11 percent are Republican. By midday, voter turnout was light.

The election Saturday was one of two congressional races in Louisiana postponed by Hurricane Gustav.

In western Louisiana's 4th Congressional District, Republican physician John Fleming and Democratic district attorney Paul Carmouche were vying to replace U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, a 10-term Republican who is retiring.

Both candidates had help from national heavyweights. President-elect Barack Obama recorded a radio ad for Carmouche, while Vice President Dick Cheney helped Fleming with fundraising.

The national Republican Party also has backed Cao, an immigration lawyer, with a barrage of advertising that has tried to portray Jefferson as corrupt.

But voters in New Orleans have been loyal to Jefferson. He easily won re-election in 2006 even as late-night TV comics made him the butt of their jokes after federal agents said they found $90,000 in alleged bribe money hidden in his freezer.

Prosecutors contend Jefferson used his influence as chairman of the congressional Africa Investment and Trade Caucus to broker deals in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and other African nations on behalf of those who bribed him.

The 2007 indictment claims Jefferson received more than $500,000 in bribes and demanded millions more between 2000 and 2005, including the $90,000 found in the freezer of his Washington home.

Jefferson has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, laundering money and misusing his congressional office. No trial date has been set.

When he took office in 1991, Jefferson became Louisiana's first black congressman since the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877) that followed the American Civil War.

FOX News' Kris Gutierrez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.