On Saturday's election for Representative of Louisiana's Second Congressional District, three men hope to unseat 18-year incumbent William Jefferson: Libertarian Gregory Kahn, Republican Ahn 'Joseph' Cao, and Green Party candidate Malik Rahim.
None of Congressman Jefferson's challengers has been elected to government office, but Republican candidate Anh 'Joseph' Cao, a Vietnam-born lawyer from New Orleans East, sidesteps this issue by comparing himself to one recent candidate whose personal qualities trumped experience.
"If I can use the same argument as Obama, it's an issue of judgment rather than experience," says Cao. "With all the experience, if you are stripped of all your committees because of you lack of judgment, what good is your experience?"
Comparing himself to a democrat isn't so peculiar considering Cao's recent political past. In 2007, Cao unsuccessfully ran as an Independent for State Representative of a highly democratic district. And though he claims Saturday's contest is not about party or racial affiliations, he's proud of his Republican credentials.
"I fall along the moral lines that are being espoused by the Republican party: anti abortion, strong family values," says Cao.
Like Cao, political activist Malik Rahim says he's running for Congress in part because of Jefferson's failures. But it's not Jefferson's legal troubles Malik finds most reprehensible.
"In the aftermath of Katrina, he failed to represent this community. He failed. He wasn't here when they closed the borders to Jefferson Parish. He wasn't here when they had vigilantes roaming the streets of Algiers. He wasn't here to makes sure people had necessities," says Malik. "I had two choices: run for this position, or run for mayor. I ran for this position because the type of legislation needed are on a nation level."
Tackling our incarceration practices and issues related to crime are top priorities for Malik, but this 18-year Green Party member, who is best known for founding the organization Common Ground, names the Wetlands Restoration Program as his proudest accomplishment. But where does restoring the wetlands rank in Malik's priorities?
"It's got to be first," he said. "In order to tell people to come to the city, the city has to be safe."
On this point, all three of Jefferson's challengers agree: Louisiana's wetlands are top priority.
Gregory Kahn, the Libertarian candidate with a long history as a civil servant, believes that because the national government knowingly tampered with Louisiana's wetlands, it's now their responsibility to repair the damage.
"The core of engineers, the digging of Mr. Go, has created the situation," says Kahn. "Restitution is in order. The government has granted themselves immunity but that's irresponsible. They have an obligation to make people whole."
Kahn says it's impossible to replenish all that's been lost, but nonetheless, the environment, not commerce, should take top priority.
"I would be in favor of any project even if it harms shipping or oyster fishing to stem the loss. You're losing land. That's the worst thing that can happen to a people is to lose their land," says Kahn.
Currently, there are no Green or Libertarian Party members serving in Congress. Running as third party candidates, Malik Rahim and Gregory Kahn each make a case for changing our two party system of government.
"You're not wasting your vote on a third party if you believe in what they stand for," says Kahn. "I don't ask anyone to vote for me unless they believe in what I'm saying."