Buddy Leach

Buddy Leach
Buddy Leach
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 4th district
In office
1979–1981
Preceded by Joe D. Waggonner
Succeeded by Buddy Roemer
Louisiana Democratic Party state chairman
Incumbent
Assumed office
January 2010
Preceded by Chris Whittington
Louisiana State Representative from Allen, Beauregard, and Vernon parishes
In office
1968 – 1979
Preceded by Bert A. Adams
Succeeded by William H. West
In office
1984 – 1988
Preceded by William H. West
Succeeded by John R. Smith
Personal details
Born March 30, 1934 (1934-03-30) (age 77)
Leesville, Louisiana
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Laura Alexander Leach
Children Mary Leach Werner

Lucy Leach Davenport
Claude Alexander Leach

Occupation Businessman; Attorney

Anthony Claude Leach, Jr., known as Buddy Leach (born March 30, 1934), is a Louisiana lawyer, businessman, farmer, cattleman, and the current Democratic Party state chairman, who resides in his native Leesville as well as Lake Charles in southwestern Louisiana. Leach served two terms in the Louisiana House of Representatives (1968–1979 and 1984–1988) and was a one-term U.S. Congressman from 1979-1981. In the state House, he represented the area around his native Vernon Parish in western Louisiana along the Texas border. In Congress, he represented the whole northwest quadrant of his state.

In January 2010, Leach was unanimously named state Democratic chairman by his party's central committee for the term ending in 2012. He succeeded Chris Whittington, a Baton Rouge attorney who had held the position since 2006. Leach vowed to put the party on a sound financial footing and to work to unseat Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter in the 2010 elections.[1]"We have been our own worst enemy in many occasions. We have not gotten our message out to the men and women of this state," Leach said.[1] Whittington was blamed by many party officials when U.S. Senator John S. McCain of Arizona won the Louisiana electoral vote in 2008.[1]

In 1978, Leach was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to succeed the popular Fourth District Congressman Joseph David "Joe D." Waggonner, Jr., originally from Plain Dealing in Bossier Parish. However, Leach survived only a single term, for he was unseated in the 1980 Louisiana general election by his fellow Democrat Charles E. "Buddy" Roemer, III, later Republican, also then from Bossier Parish. However, there were four other candidates, former state Senator Cecil K. Carter, Jr., of Shreveport, state Representative Forrest Dunn of Shreveport, state Senator Foster Campbell of Bossier Parish, and state Representative Loy F. Weaver of Claiborne Parish.

Thereafter, Leach regained his state House seat in the 1983 nonpartisan blanket primary. Leach relinquished his House seat again, this time to run unsuccessfully for state treasurer in 1987 in a campaign won by future U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu. In 2003, Leach launched a largely self-financed gubernatorial campaign with a populist theme but finished in fourth place.

Leach was defeated by his fellow Democrat, later Republican, John R. Smith, also of Leesville, in the November 17, 2007, general election for the District 30 seat in the Louisiana State Senate vacated by term-limited Republican James David Cain. Smith polled 9,326 votes (52 percent) to Leach's 8,777 (48 percent). In the October 20 primary, Leach led in the balloting with 10,219 votes (39 percent) to Smith's 9,227 (36 percent), and Democrat Terry Fowler's 6,492 (25 percent).

Contents

Early years, education, military

"Buddy" Leach was born to Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Claude Leach, Sr. The elder Leach was a plumbing contractor, and Leach himself obtained a plumber's license. Leach graduated from Leesville High School in 1951. He received his bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in 1955. He served in the U.S. Army from 1956–1959, and he was in the Army Reserve from 1959-1962. He obtained his Juris Doctor degree from LSU Law School in 1963. He was admitted to the Louisiana bar in 1964 and established his practice in Leesville, the seat of Vernon Parish and the location of nearby Fort Polk, one of the largest U.S. Army bases in the nation. At the time that Leach was establishing his law office, he lost his father. The death was especially painful because Leach had been working with his father since 1946, when Leach was only a twelve-year-old boy. Leach continued to run the family business until he could find a buyer and jobs for the employees.

When he was pursuing a degree in pre-medicine at LSU in 1954, before he decided to switch to the law, Leach was stricken by polio and taken to Baton Rouge General Hospital. He recovered and did not need the use of the iron lung treatments. The disease otherwise crippled thousands of persons in the days before Dr. Jonas Salk developed the vaccine.

Leach is one of the wealthiest Louisiana politicians. Not only has he had a successful law practice, but he has made a fortune in farming, natural gas, petroleum, and investments. In addition, his wife, the former Laura Alexander (born 1939), a Lake Charles native, is wealthy in her own right. Leach's sister's husband is a former superintendent of schools in Vernon Parish.

Legislative service: Baton Rouge and Washington

Leach was initially elected to the legislature in the 1967-1968 election cycle. He served a full decade in the body before he resigned in the latter half of his third term to become the Fourth District congressman.

In the 1978 congressional campaign, Leach was seen as the most liberal candidate of the three frontrunners because he had supported numerous tax increases in the legislature. The "right-to-work" forces and many conservatives coalesced behind Democrat-turned Republican former state Representative James H. "Jimmy" Wilson, a former mayor of Vivian in northern Caddo Parish. Other more conservative Democrats rallied behind Roemer, who made a strong third-place finish in the primary. Another candidate, State Representative Loy F. Weaver of Homer in Claiborne Parish, who had been an FBI agent and a member of the Drug Enforcement Administration, secured the endorsement of Shreveport Times[2] and finished in fourth place. The general election offered interparty competition between Wilson and Leach. In the end, Leach defeated Wilson by 266 disputed votes: 65,583 (50.1 percent) to 65,317 (49.9 percent). Wilson received majorities only in Caddo and Bossier parishes; all the other parishes in the district supported Leach.

Wilson never accepted defeat, and he continued to challenge Leach's victory. The GOP alleged that Leach's slim lead was based on fraudulent votes procured in a heavily black section of Leesville known as "The Crossing." Twenty-three individuals pleaded guilty to vote-buying on Leach's behalf in 1979 court litigation. Two others were convicted on similar charges. Leach himself was acquitted of bribery charges growing out of the disputed general election in the U.S. District Court in Lake Charles.

Meanwhile, the Democratic U.S. House appointed a select subcommittee to investigate Wilson's charges. The panel voted 2-1 on party lines to uphold Leach's seating; it concluded that available evidence showed that sixty-six votes were bought, a number insufficient to affect the outcome of the contest. The full House, again largely on party lines, concurred with the subcommittee's report.

Once in office, Leach maintained good constituent services in the tradition of his predecessor Waggonner. He kept an apartment in Shreveport and flew into the city on a regular basis. Leach would drive through the district to meet with voters for as long as time permitted. He flew back to Washington every time there was a scheduled roll call. His congressional voting record was arguably as conservative as that of Waggonner.

Two years later, Wilson and Roemer again challenged Leach. Allegations of vote-buying continued to haunt the freshman congressman. That year Wilson, who had national Republican backing, was eliminated in the primary, along with two other Democratic hopefuls, state Senator Foster L. Campbell, Jr., of Elm Grove in Bossier Parish and state Representative Forrest Dunn, a Shreveport businessman.

In the general election, Leach faced Roemer then a Democrat prior to his party switch in 1991. Roemer, who had been a member of the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1973, easily prevailed to take the seat. He received 103,625 votes (63.8 percent) to Leach's 58,705 ballots (36.2 percent). Leach's future political prospects seemed indeed bleak. Waggonner had supported Leach in both of the elections and urged voters to reject Roemer because of Roemer's lack of enthusiasm for one of Waggonner's favorite enterprises, the Red River navigation project. One of Leach's aides, James Otis "Jim" McCrery, III, a native of Shreveport who grew up in Leesville, was retained by Roemer. In 1988, McCrery, who had become a Republican, narrowly won a special election to succeed Roemer in the House when Roemer stepped down to become governor.

In 1983, Leach launched a bid to regain his seat in the Louisiana legislature for the term extending from 1984-1988. He supported Edwin Washington Edwards, who engineered his own comeback as governor in the same election. In his last legislative term, Leach was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and played a major role on tax policy. He left the state House, however, to run for state treasurer, when long-term incumbent Mary Evelyn Parker, a native of Allen Parish, suddenly retired on January 1, 1987.

Ron Gomez, a colleague from Lafayette from 1984-1988 describes Leach, accordingly: "a tough, sometimes rude person who had [formerly] run Ways and Means with an iron hand. He had left the Louisiana legislature when he was elected to the U.S. Congress from a northwest Louisiana district and then became embroiled in accusation of voter fraud in his election. The allegations were never proven, but the stain was enough to get him beat in his first attempt at reelection by the up-and-coming 'Buddy' Roemer. Leach, showing amazing resilency, then recaptured his old House seat. Leach was {sic} a large, jowly man who looked a bit like the actor Charles Laughton and enjoyed great personal wealth. He was not known for his tact and some would call him arrogant. This was typical 'Buddy' Leach: When we first met on the House floor the opening day of the 1984 legislative session, he looked up and down by five-foot-eight frame and said, 'So you're the famous Rom Gomez I've heard so much about. I thought you'd be bigger. You're just a little fella.'".[3]

Running for treasurer and Congress again

In the October 24, 1987, primary for treasurer, Leach finished a disappointing third among the four candidates, all Democrats. Two of Leach's legislative colleagues led the balloting and went into a general election. Mary Landrieu of New Orleans, led the field with 602,897 votes (44 percent), and Kevin P. Reilly, Sr., also the chief executive officer of Lamar Advertising Company in Baton Rouge, drew 437,438 votes (32 percent). Leach received 210,323 votes (15 percent). Thomas D. "Tom" Burbank, Jr., son of the former head of the Louisiana state police, polled 118,230 votes (9 percent). Leach did win pluralities or majorities in a number of parishes, including his own Vernon and the surrounding parishes of Beauregard and Allen plus Red River and Webster parishes further north. The general election was cancelled when Reilly decided to drop his campaign. Landieu would serve as treasurer for just over eight years before she would run unsuccessfully for governor in 1995 and then successfully in 1996 for the Senate.

Shortly after his defeat for treasurer, Leach bounced into another election. He attempted to regain the congressional seat that he had lost more than seven years earlier. He ran in the special election on March 8, 1988, in an attempt to succeed newly-elected Governor Buddy Roemer, but he failed to make the runoff. He finished in fifth place among ten candidates with 13,646 votes (11 percent). In third place in the primary was the former editor of the since defunct Shreveport Journal, Stanley R. Tiner, who subsequently left the state to continue his career in journalism. The seat went to newly-declared Republican Jim McCrery, who narrowly defeated the Democrat, then state Senator Foster Campbell, who had also run in the 1980 congressional race against Leach.

Leach runs for governor

Main article: Louisiana gubernatorial election, 2003

In 2002, Leach came out of political retirement to run for governor in the 2003 jungle primary. He was one of seventeen candidates, but only five or six were major contenders. He spent heavily from his own fortune. By the summer of 2003, he ranked last in cash on hand ($207,000) and money raised from others ($103,000 since January 1, 2003), but he had more personal wealth than all the other candidates in the race combined. Leach "lent" his campaign more than 97 percent of the $8.3 million that he ultimately expended in the race.

Leach said that if he were elected governor he would fundamentally change Louisiana:

"I want to take a Brillo pad and Purex bleach and scrub the budget." He endorsed the implementation of a processing tax on foreign oil, the establishment of a state minimum wage, and the ending of industrial tax exemptions on education millages. Leach said that his proposed processing tax on imported oil would be dedicated to increasing spending on education at all levels.

"Louisiana deserves a governor who fights to raise incomes in our state closer to the national average so that people who work hard, full time, can earn enough to live decently . . . near their families in Louisiana," Leach said. "Better wages and salaries mean our people can buy and own homes. It means better and safer neighborhoods. It means resources to fund education, health care, and job training."

Leach won several high-profile endorsements in the gubernatorial race, including black Congressman William J. Jefferson of New Orleans, himself a candidate for governor in 1999, and the Chinese-American Sheriff Harry Lee of Jefferson Parish. When Congressman Jefferson ran into legal problems in 2006, Leach contributed to the defense fund. Meanwhile, Leach's former congressional aide, McCrery, endorsed the Republican gubernatorial front-runner, Bobby Jindal.

Leach polled 14 percent of the primary vote, enough, many believe, to have cost the third-place finisher, Attorney General Richard Ieyoub, also of Lake Charles, a general election berth. Ieyoub received 223,513 ballots (16 percent). The coveted second spot went instead to then Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who polled 18 percent in the primary. Jindal, then of Baton Rouge and thereafter a congressman from the New Orleans suburbs, had led the primary balloting with 33 percent. Right below Leach in the tally was then state Senate President Randy Ewing, a businessman from Quitman in Jackson Parish, who finished in fifth place with 123,936 (9 percent). Ewing was considered the most conservative of the Democratic candidates, but he supported affirmative action programs.

A survey showed that Leach spent $44.43 per vote received, or ten times the amount spent by Republican Jindal. Leach spent $8.3 million to capture 187,872 votes. Jindal, the primary leader, spent $1.9 million and received 443,389 votes, or $4.28 per voter. Blanco went on to defeat Jindal in the general election, 52-48 percent.

The Leach family

"Buddy" and Laura Leach married in 1969. They have two daughters, Mary Leach Werner and Lucy Leach Davenport. Lucy and her husband Craig A. Davenport of Baton Rouge were both born in 1970. There is a married son, Claude Alexander Leach (born 1974) of Lake Charles. As of 2007, the Leaches had nine grandchildren.

The Leaches supported Kathleen Blanco in the gubernatorial general election. In fact, the Leaches and Blancos were old friends who had originally been supporters of future U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., of Shreveport in the 1971 gubernatorial primary. Governor Blanco appointed Leach to the board of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. In 1994, Governor Edwards had named Laura Leach to the LSU Board of Supervisors, and Governor Murphy J. "Mike" Foster, Jr., the Republican whom Leach hoped to have succeeded, renewed her appointment as a supervisor. Mrs. Leach received a bachelor's degree in business administration from LSU in 1961.

The Leaches have aided schools throughout the University of Louisiana System. They endowed the LSU School of Agriculture and science education at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. They have been patrons of the arts, with Laura having been honored as the largest contributor in southwest Louisiana for several consecutive years. The couple has personally funded the restoration of 5,000 acres (20 km2) of marshland which Leach said was damaged by environmental neglect.

Leach is president and CEO of Sweet Lake Land and Oil Co. and the North American Land Co. in Lake Charles. Leach is the chairman of the Merchants and Farmers Bank in Leesville. He has served as former director of the Louisiana Lions League for Crippled Children and as the former director of the Louisiana Lions Eye Research Center in New Orleans. Leach is an active member of the Louisiana Cattleman's Association.

Democratic National Committeeman Leach

In 2006, the Democratic State Central Committee in Baton Rouge unanimously elected Leach as the party's national committeeman. He succeeded Jerry McKernan of Baton Rouge. Leach will serve eighteen months before the next round of party elections, according to Louisiana State Democratic Chairman Chris Whittington. "Louisiana is a Democratic state," Leach said. "Our national Democratic Party has not always seen fit to pay attention to our people and our needs in the Bayou State." Leach vowed to travel the state and work to bring strayed and new Democrats to the party. Four years later, he left the committeeman position to become state chairman.

References

  1. ^ a b c "Melinda Deslatte, "Leach to lead Louisiana Democrats", January 31, 2010". Shreveport Times. http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20100131/NEWS01/1310363/1002/NEWS/Leach-to-lead-Louisiana-Democrats. Retrieved February 6, 2010. [dead link]
  2. ^ Political advertisement, Minden Press-Herald, September 8, 1978
  3. ^ Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron And I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative, Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, pp. 144-145, ISBN=0-9700156-0-7

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Bert A. Adams
Louisiana State Representative from Allen, Beauregard, and Vernon parishes

Anthony Claude "Buddy" Leach, Jr.
1968–1979

Succeeded by
William H. West
Preceded by
William H. West
Louisiana State Representative from Beauregard, Vernon, and part of Rapides parishes

Anthony Claude "Buddy" Leach, Jr.
1984–1988

Succeeded by
John R. Smith
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Joseph David "Joe D." Waggonner, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 4th congressional district

1979–1981
Succeeded by
Charles E. "Buddy" Roemer, III

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