Former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd's hopefully brief reappearance on the public stage, where he caused a scandal by merely showing up to a transition meeting between New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell and the city's current legislators, was a reminder of his sordid track record that includes a federal money laundering conviction and several domestic violence arrests.
It was also a reminder of some unfinished legislative business.
Once out of prison following his guilty plea, Shepherd tried to run for office once again, despite a constitutional amendment barring convicted felons for serving for 15 years. He challenged that provision in court and won, due to a glitch in the ballot language, but it was already too late by then to appear on the ballot. So in effect, his challenge paved the way for others with similar records to return to public office, or for Shepherd himself to try again.
Crooked politicians, take heart: You may yet have a chance at a second act in elected office.
Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell sought Saturday to distance herself from former state lawmaker D…
At the time, lawmakers vowed to reinstate the provision, properly this time. After all, the idea had already been endorsed in a popular vote.
That's not what happened. After the House overwhelmingly endorsed a new constitutional amendment by state Rep. Gregory Miller, R-Norco, limiting the ban on running to eight years, the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee took up the matter at the end of a long hearing. Nobody made any big speeches for or against the idea. The committee just voted it down without comment, 3-2. And that was that.
There are a couple of interesting footnotes here. New Orleans legislators were said to be appalled that Shepherd showed up at their meeting with Cantrell. But if he ever runs again, he'll have three city lawmakers to thank; State Sens. Wesley Bishop, Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson, the committee's chair, who provided the three "no" votes.
Then there's this: The legal client for whom Shepherd had admitted laundering money was referred by former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, who was already under investigation for the separate crimes that would end his career and send him to prison. After having called Jefferson unfit for public office during his own third-place primary campaign, Shepherd turned around and endorsed him in the 2006 Congressional runoff. The fifth place finisher in that primary was none other than Troy Carter. And the runoff candidate Jefferson ultimately beat? Karen Carter Peterson.