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David C. Treen

David Conner Treen, Sr.
David Treen-Congressional Photo Directory, 1977
51st Governor of Louisiana
In office
March 10, 1980 – March 12, 1984
Lieutenant Robert "Bobby" Freeman
Preceded by Edwin Edwards
Succeeded by Edwin Edwards
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 3rd District
In office
January 3, 1973 – March 10, 1980
Preceded by Patrick T. Caffery
Succeeded by Billy Tauzin
Personal details
Born (1928-07-16)July 16, 1928
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
Died October 29, 2009(2009-10-29) (aged 81)
Metairie, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
Resting place Saint Timothy United Methodist Church Memorial Garden in Mandeville, Louisiana.
Political party Republican (since 1962)
Spouse(s) Dolores Brisbi "Dodi" Treen (married 1951–2005, her death)
Children Jennifer Treen Neville
Dr. David C. Treen, Jr.
Cynthia Treen Lunceford
Alma mater Alcee Fortier High School

Tulane University
Tulane Law School

Profession Attorney
Religion United Methodist
Military service
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service 1951–1952
Battles/wars Korean War

David Conner "Dave" Treen, Sr. (July 16, 1928 – October 29, 2009), was an American attorney and politician from Mandeville, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana – the first Republican Governor of the U.S. state of Louisiana since Reconstruction. He was the first Republican in modern times to have served in the U.S. House of Representatives from his state.

A narrow victor in the gubernatorial general election held in 1979, Treen served as governor from 1980–84. He lost his bid for reelection in 1983 to his long-time rival, Democrat Edwin Edwards. He served in Congress from 1973 to 1980. Treen grew up as a Democrat, but became a Republican in 1962 when there were only about ten thousand registered Republicans in the state. At the time of Treen's death in 2009, only a few other living Louisiana Republicans had exceeded his length of tenure in the GOP.

Early years and family

Treen was born in the state capital of Baton Rouge to Joseph Paul Treen, Sr. (1900–1986), and Elizabeth Treen (née Speir) (1899–1990).[1] He graduated in 1945 from Alcee Fortier High School in New Orleans. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948 in history and political science from Tulane University in New Orleans. While at Tulane, he was a brother of Kappa Sigma fraternity. In 1950, he graduated from Tulane Law School and was admitted to the bar. In 1951, he married Dolores "Dodi" Brisbi (November 23, 1929 – March 19, 2005),[1] a graduate of Newcomb College in New Orleans, who he met while he was attending Tulane. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1952. Treen joined the law firm of Deutsch, Kerrigan & Stiles. He was also a vice president of the Simplex Manufacturing Corporation of New Orleans from 1952–57.

The Treens had three children, Jennifer Treen Neville (born ca. 1952), Dr. David C. Treen, Jr. and Cynthia Treen Lunceford (born April 2, 1954), and nine grandchildren. He had two brothers, Joseph Paul Treen, Jr. (deceased) and John Speir Treen.[2] Treen's eldest grandson, Jason Stewart Neville (born May 21, 1979), was one of the founding members of the Green Party of Louisiana and ran unsuccessfully in 2003 for the Louisiana State Senate.

States' Rights Party elector candidate, 1960

In 1960, Treen opposed the election of both Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy as president and ran as an elector for the Louisiana States' Rights Party, which supported Virginia Democratic U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. In addition to Treen, the States' Rights electors included former State Senator William M. Rainach of Claiborne Parish (a defeated 1959 gubernatorial candidate) and Plaquemines Parish Judge Leander Perez, who was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church because of his outspoken opposition to racial integration. Another elector was the "Radical Right" figure Kent Courtney of New Orleans and later Alexandria. Still another was the anti-Long former Congressman Jared Y. Sanders, Jr., of Baton Rouge, son of former Governor Jared Y. Sanders, Sr.[3]

Treen made it clear that his states' rights group was not affiliated with the National States' Rights Party, a group considered neo-Nazi, and, in Treen's words, "a disgrace to the term 'states rights.'" Treen's elector slate polled 169,572 ballots (21%) statewide. Jefferson Parish, Treen's residence, which would later support him in most of his campaigns, rejected the States' Righters and instead supported Kennedy with 51.8%. Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. electors received 230,980 (28.6%) in Louisiana, and Kennedy-Johnson won the state's ten electoral votes with 407,339 (50.4%).[4] One of the Kennedy electors was popular State Attorney General Jack P.F. Gremillion, a part of the Earl Kemp Long organization, who would fall to scandal a dozen years later. Another was Edmund Reggie of Crowley, Louisiana, a confidant of future Governor Edwin Edwards and future father-in-law of Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.[5]

Republican for Congress, 1962, 1964, and 1968

Treen joined the Republican Party (GOP), then still small in Louisiana, in 1962 to run for the U.S. House of Representatives against Second District Democrat Hale Boggs (1914–1972), of New Orleans though Treen's father had urged him instead to challenge Boggs for renomination in the Democratic primary. Treen, as a young Democrat in 1956, had supported then Republican congressional nominee George R. Blue in Blue's failed race against Boggs that year. Blue later switched to the Democrats and won election to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1964.

Treen joined the Republican Party at a time when it was all but nonexistent in Louisiana. Under the circumstances, Treen was able to raise only $11,000 for his 1962 and polled 27,791 votes (32.8 percent) to Boggs' 57,395 (67.2 percent).

In 1964, Treen again challenged Boggs and improved on his earlier showing, helped by the popularity in Louisiana of the presidential candidacy of U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater and by Boggs' vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, even as most Southern Democrats voted against it. In that campaign, Treen polled 62,881 (45 percent) to Boggs' 77,009 (55%). In 1966, Treen did not run for Congress; the GOP fielded the attorney Leonard L. Limes of New Orleans, who was badly defeated by Boggs. So, Treen tried again in 1968– his third and final campaign against Boggs, then the House majority whip. Boggs became majority leader in 1971 and was in line for Speaker. California Governor Ronald Reagan came into the district to campaign for Treen. This time, Treen almost defeated Boggs, receiving 77,633 votes (48.8%) to Boggs' 81,537 ballots (51.2%).

Treen attributed Boggs' victory to the supporters of former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace, who ran for president on the American Independent Party ticket. Treen claimed that Wallace supporters "became very cool to my candidacy. We couldn't really believe they would support Boggs, but several Democratic organizations did come out for Wallace and Boggs, and he received just enough Wallace votes to give him the election". Treen did not contest the election.

First gubernatorial campaign, 1971–1972

Primary opposition from Robert M. Ross

Treen was challenged in the only Republican gubernatorial closed primary ever held in Louisiana. His opponent was Robert Max Ross (August 5, 1933 – September 15, 2009), a native of Baskin in Franklin Parish, who grew up in Mangham in Richland Parish in north Louisiana. Ross graduated from Mangham High School in 1951 and procured a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force, fought in the Vietnam War, and was a major in the Air Force Reserves. After his military service, Ross returned to Mangham, where he was involved in a number of small businesses, including a mobile home park.[6] In the 1971 primary, Treen carried the support of the party leadership, including chairman Charles deGravelles of Lafayette. Treen received 92 percent of the vote (9,732 votes) to Ross's 8% percent (839 votes). Ross challenged Treen again for governor in 1983 and ran far behind in races for the United States Senate in 1984 and 1986.

1972 general election against Edwin Edwards

For the general election against Edwards held on February 1, 1972, Treen campaigned vigorously with billboards which said, "Make a Real Change," and television spots too, but he still lost. His chances seemed to improve when the American Party nominee, Hall M. Lyons (1923–1998) of Lafayette, a son of GOP pioneer Charlton Lyons of Shreveport, withdrew after Edwards predicted his own victory based on the premise that Lyons and Treen would split the more conservative vote. Lyons said that his decision to leave the race was intended to allow conservatives to unite behind Treen.[7]

Treen also shared the Republican ticket with other candidates. Morley A. Hudson and Tom Stagg, both of Shreveport, ran for lieutenant governor and attorney general respectively, against Jimmy Fitzmorris and William J. Guste. Robert L. Frye, a native of Webster Parish in northwest Louisiana and a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, ran for state education superintendent against the Democratic nominee Louis J. Michot. Edwards scoffed at his challenger: "If Treen had been a registered Democrat in the November 6 Democratic primary, he'd have gotten lost in the shuffle. Yet, while his only claim of any kind of legitimacy is that he's a Republican, he deliberately avoids use of the word 'Republican' on any of his campaign paraphernalia. He's apparently ashamed of the fact that he'a a Republican."[8]

Treen polled 480,424 ballots (42.8%) to Edwards's 641,146 (57.2%) Treen carried twenty-seven parishes, mostly in the northern part of the state, with margins exceeding 60 percent in ten of those parishes. His tally was some 5 percentage points higher than what Charlton Lyons had scored in 1964 against John McKeithen. The confident and charismatic Edwards proclaimed that his administration would be an "Era of Excellence". The Shreveport Times and its sister publication, the former Monroe Morning World (now Monroe News-Star), analyzed the gubernatorial returns and concluded that Edwards received 202,055 black votes to only 10,709 for Treen. As Edwards' statewide margin was 160,000, the survey concluded that African Americans made the difference. The newspapers said that Treen received some 30,000 more votes from whites than did Edwards. Another source said that Treen, who was named Republican national committeeman after his gubernatorial race, received the backing of 55 percent of white voters but only 2 percent among African Americans.[9]

Numerous Republican legislative candidates ran on the Treen ticket but most outside of Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and Jefferson Parish were defeated. The Treen loyalist Bob Reese, for instance, failed in a state senate race from Natchitoches Parish against the Democrat Paul L. Foshee.

Election to Congress, 1972

After a decade of service on the Republican State Central Committee, Treen was named as the Louisiana Republican national committeeman for a two-year stint that began in 1972. Five weeks after the gubernatorial race, Treen succeeded his former ticket mate, Tom Stagg, later a U.S. District judge in Shreveport.[9]

Treen's friend, James H. Boyce, a Baton Rouge industrialist, served as state party chairman while Treen was national committeeman. Over the years, Treen was the beneficiary of a group of dedicated party officials who worked on his behalf, such as National Committeeman Frank Spooner of Monroe, who lost the 1976 race in Louisiana's 5th congressional district to Democrat Jerry Huckaby,[10] and National Committeewoman Virginia Martinez of New Orleans, the treasurer of the national party conventions in 1980 and 1984.[11]

In the fall of 1972, based in part on the strength of his losing gubernatorial race, Treen ran for the open Third District House seat vacated by conservative Democrat Patrick T. Caffery of New Iberia, the seat of Iberia Parish in south Louisiana. He was a surprise winner, helped in part by the popularity of the Nixon-Agnew ticket, which carried sixty-three of the sixty-four parishes (the exception, West Feliciana Parish) in traditionally Democratic Louisiana. Treen defeated Democrat J. Louis Watkins, Jr., of Houma, 71,090 (54 percent) to 60,521 (46 percent). Watkins had won his party nomination in a runoff contest over State Senator Carl W. Bauer of St. Mary and St. Martin parishes. Treen's then home parish of Jefferson helped to push him over the top with a 73 percent share of the vote. Treen hence became the first Republican to represent Louisiana in Congress since Hamilton D. Coleman left office from the Second District in 1891.

Treen served in the congressional seat from 1973 until 1980, when he resigned to become governor. As a congressman, he voted right-of-center and usually in accord with his party. He was considered a team player among House Republicans. In 1974, Treen won a comfortable reelection in a nationally Democratic year. He defeated State Representative Charles Grisbaum, Jr., of Jefferson Parish, who became a close friend. Grisbaum later switched parties, and when Treen became governor in 1980, Grisbaum served as one of Treen's floor leaders in the Louisiana House. In 1975, Treen was joined by his first Louisiana Republican colleague in the U.S. House when Henson Moore (born 1939) won the Sixth Congressional District seat based in and about Baton Rouge and the Florida Parishes. Moore won the seat formerly held by the Democrat John Rarick. In 1976, Treen polled 73.3 percent in a race against a nominal Democratic opponent while the Democrat Jimmy Carter carried Louisiana over Gerald R. Ford.

Election as governor, 1979

In 1979, Treen retained John McKeithen's former campaign manager, Gus Weill of Baton Rouge, who in 1958 had established the first political public relations firm in Baton Rouge.[12] Treen ran that year in the nonpartisan blanket primary for governor, only the second such election held in Louisiana. He finished with 297,469 votes, almost the exact numbers posted by Charlton Lyons in 1964—284 fewer votes in fact than Lyons had in a two-candidate field. The second spot was hotly contested between Public Service Commissioner Louis Lambert of Ascension Parish (282,708 votes) and outgoing Lieutenant Governor James E. "Jimmy" Fitzmorris, Jr., of New Orleans (280,412 votes).

In the Treen-Lambert general election, the defeated Democratic candidates, including the disappointed Fitzmorris, House Speaker E. L. Henry of Jonesboro, and State Senators Paul Hardy of St. Martinville and Edgar G. "Sonny" Mouton, Jr., of Lafayette, all endorsed Treen. Their support helped him to defeat Lambert by 9,557 votes. Treen received 690,691 (50.3%) to Lambert's 681,134 (49.7%). He won 22 parishes in victory, compared to 27 parishes in defeat in 1972. Only ten parishes that had voted for Treen in 1972 stuck with him in 1979. His strongest parishes in victory were all in south Louisiana: Plaquemines, Lafayette, St. Tammany, and Iberia.

In the losing 1972 campaign, all of Treen's strong parishes were in north Louisiana. The election of 1979 seemed to indicate that Lafayette would in time replace Shreveport as the new growth center of the Louisiana GOP. Treen's victory came from Republican inroads made in the Edwards stronghold of Acadiana, particularly Lafayette, Iberia, Terrebonne, Acadia, and St. Martin parishes, where the GOP nominee overcame large deficits from 1972 to win in 1979. Treen received only 3.1% of the black vote in victory, nearly identical to his black support in 1972 in defeat.

In March 1980, aged 51, Treen became the 51st governor of his state. He made full use of his power to appoint members of state boards and commissions. He named the Alexandria businessman and philanthropist Roy O. Martin, Jr., to the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry. He named John Henry Baker to the Louisiana Athletic Commission, since renamed the Louisiana State Boxing and Wrestling Commission. Martin and Baker were both delegates to the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit, Michigan. He named the Louisiana Tech University English professor Robert C. Snyder to the Louisiana State Ethics Commission, a position that Snyder held for twenty-six years, including a stint as chairman.[13]

Treen's House seat returned in the spring of 1980 to the Democratic Party, as State Representative Billy Tauzin of Thibodaux defeated two principal opponents, his fellow Democrat, State Senator Anthony Guarisco, Jr., of Morgan City, and the Democrat-turned-Republican Jim Donelon, who had just lost a Democratic race for lieutenant governor.[14]

Treen reappointed Shreveport attorney Robert G. Pugh to the Louisiana Board of Regents created by the Constitution of 1974, which Pugh had helped to write. Pugh, who was an advisor to Treen on numerous issues, also presented a plan to preserve coastal wetlands through a tax on energy, but the legislature failed to approve it. Treen appointed Robert DeBlieux, the outgoing Democratic mayor of Natchitoches as the state's chief preservation officer. DeBleiux had been instrumental in obtaining designation of the Natchitoches Historic District in the middle 1970s. When Treen assumed office, only 10 of the 105 members of the Louisians House of Representatives were Republican, and all 39 state senators were Democrats.

Accomplishments as governor

The Treen administration is remembered for the creation of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, a statewide high school for gifted children on the campus of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. Treen managed to establish the Department of Environmental Quality but only after he blamed "political special interests" loyal to Edwin Edwards for undermining his effort.[15]

Treen appointed more African Americans to state offices than any other previous governor in history during his single term, a point which he often ranked among his proudest accomplishments.[16]

Two Treen campaign confidants, John H. Cade, Jr., of Alexandria and William "Billy" Nungesser of New Orleans, worked as unpaid advisors in the administration. Cade had also managed Treen's successful congressional races in 1972, 1974, 1976, and 1978. He directed the successful 1979 gubernatorial race as well as the disastrous 1983 reelection attempt. Cade was the Republican state chairman from 1976 to 1978, and Nungesser chaired the GOP central committee as well from 1988 to 1992.[17]

Treen rewarded all of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates who endorsed him. Jimmy Fitzmorris became Executive Assistant for Economic Development. Edgar Mouton was named executive counsel to Treen, but he later abandoned the administration and endorsed the return of Edwin Edwards to the governorship in 1983. Speaker E.L. Henry became the powerful Commissioner of Administration. Louisiana Secretary of State Paul Hardy became secretary of the Department of Transportation and Development, with the former Republican mayor of Minden, Tom Colten, as his assistant. Edwards loyalist George Fischer was named secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources, one of the largest departments in state government.[18] Many of the Democrat legislators remained loyal to Edwards, who operated a "shadow government" from the sidelines. Edwards said on leaving office in 1980 that he was on "a brief, mandated hiatus and would be back" in 1983.[19]

Treen obtained legislative passage of his "Professional Improvement Program" (or PIPs) to provide bonuses of $2,000 each to participating public school teachers. The initial $67 million appropriation for the program was increased to $90 million. PIPs allowed instructors to obtain supplemental pay for taking college-level courses and/or attending intensive workshops with the goal of improving teaching performance.[20] Problems developed when numerous teachers signed up for classes with limited academic requirements and shunned the more rigorous courses. Such actions by the educators thereby undermined the purpose of Treen's reform. Edwards dismantled the program when he returned to office in 1984.[21]

Treen signed into law a measure authored by State Senator Bill P. Keith of Shreveport which required balanced treatment in public school instruction regarding evolution and creation science. The measure was struck down in 1987, after Treen had left office, by the United States Supreme Court in the case Edwards v. Aguillard.[22]

Treen worked with the Lafayette delegation, including Representatives Mike Thompson and Ron Gomez, for construction of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns stadium, the Cajundome. Construction began in 1982 and was completed and dedicated late in 1985, by which time Edwards had returned to the office.[23]

Governor Treen developed a reputation for indecision and micromanagement of details which frustrated supporters and angered adversaries. His failure to push for strong conservative policies and governmental reforms disappointed many Republican allies, as did his refusal to oust from his administration allies of Edwin Edwards.

Treen presided over resumption of use of capital punishment in Louisiana. Two convicts were executed by the electric chair during his tenure.

Treen waged a fight against littering through the creation in 1981 of the Litter Control and Recycling Commission. Violators faced potential fines of $100 to $500 and/or several days of actual litter collection from along state highways.[24]

In 1982, Treen proposed a $450 million tax on petroleum and natural gas known as the Coastal Wetlands Environmental Levy, but the measure ran into swift opposition from conservatives and the trade association, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. Treen defended CWEL on the premise that it would place no undue burden on any individual or group and would increase the state coffers at a much higher yield than would a boost in the state income tax.[25]LABI director Edward J. Steimel announced immediate opposition to CWEL even before consulting members of his own board.[26] CWEL was defeated in the Louisiana House though it received approval from a majority of lawmakers; it fell twelve votes short of the required two-thirds needed. Among the opponents were conservative legislators Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge and B.F. O'Neal, Jr., of Shreveport.[27]

After the defeat of CWEL, Treen ordered a 3 percent reduction in state employment, with the goal of saving $12 million, far less than the environmental tax would have generated.[28]In 1986, out of office, Treen uttered "I told you so" when state finances dipped by the same $450 million amount which he had projected CWEL would have brought into the state treasury.[29]A few month earlier, a poll showed Treen leading Edwards, 28-18, in a hypothetical 1987 gubernatorial matchup.[30]

In December 1982, Treen said that he had abandoned his call for new taxes and would instead attempt to cut $150 million from the state budget to provide seniority raises for state employees. House Speaker John Hainkel, meanwhile, proposed $40 million in higher taxes, including higher tuition and fees at vocational school and repeal of a $5 million tax exemptio provided to Blue Cross Blue Shield in Louisiana.[31]

In August 1982, Treen vetoed twenty-four bills passed by the legislature on the premise that most would have added expense to the already strained state budget. One of the bills would have exempted Butane and propane gas dealers from sales taxes.[32]

Treen worked to reform the state worker's compensation program, long known for its high insurance rates on business. When a 1982 reform plan failed, Treen blaimd LABI because the trade association would not compromise with the Democrats to secure a bill that could pass the legislature. LABI director Ed Steimel declared the worker's compensation problem at the time to be the major roadblock to bringing new and expanded industries into the state.[33] Early in 1983, a revised worker's compensation bill was passed, and money was earmarked to make the unemployment compensation fund solvent. No action was taken on a policy involving hiring out convict labor. "A majority of the Senate thought we had asked for enough. There was a lack of enthusiasm once again against a position taken by Victor Bussie, the president of the state AFL-CIO.[34]

Treen and Freeman

Treen had difficulty working with the lieutenant governor, Democrat Robert "Bobby" Freeman, a former state representative from Plaquemine in Iberville Parish south of Baton Rouge. Considered a liberal by Louisiana standards, Freeman vowed to exercise gubernatorial powers, as permitted under the state constitution, whenever Treen left the state, either on business or pleasure trips. This recurring threat made it hard for Treen to make out-of-state appearances.

Freeman quarreled with Treen over the 1983-1984 operating budget for the lieutenant governor's office. Treen rejected the $545,544 amount first considered and instead recommended $411,907, a change which Freeman said would result in the layoff of six of his fifteen employees. Freeman threatened to take Treen to court if he vetoed the larger amount: "I'm certainly not going to continue cooperating with a man who threatens me and my employees."[35]

Treen continued to maintain that Freeman had "padded" his salary expenses by the $133,000 difference between the two budget figures. As he had threatened, Freeman filed suit against the governor.[36] Freeman worked for the return of Edwin Edwards to the governorship, and Freeman himself easily won re-election in 1983 by defeating Edwards' first lieutenant governor, fellow Democrat Jimmy Fitzmorris, while Treen went down to a crushing defeat.

Facing Edwards again, 1983

Treen and Edwards were known as fierce rivals. Treen began his campaign for a second term in December 1982, with John Cade leading the group, People for Dave Treen. At first, Cade emerged as the governor's campaign spokesman so that he could concentrate on his job duties. Cade questioned Edwards' decision to forego his gubernatorial retirement income of $40,000 per year on the grounds that Edwards was no longer "retired" because he was running to reclaim the governorship. Cade said that Edwards would have collected only $14,000 in pension and not before the age of sixty had he not engineered legislative approval of the more lucrative package.[37]

At a fundraiser in Thibodaux to celebrate his 55th birthday, Treen said that Edwards in 1980 "left a pile of unpaid bills and a stinking surplus of hazardous waste dumps."[38]Edwards raised far more campaign cash than Treen, $5.4 million to $2.1 million, as of June 30, 1983.[39]Thereafter on October 9, the comedian Bob Hope headlined a Treen fundraiser at $1,000 per ticket held in the Downtown Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans.[40]Treen picked up the support of former U.S. Representative James Domengeaux, a Democrat from Lafayette and director of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana.[41]

Edwards ridiculed his opponent by claiming that Treen moved about so slowly that "it takes him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes". Similarly, when asked for a scenario in which he could lose to Treen, Edwards replied, nonchalantly, "If I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy."

U.S. Representative Gillis William Long of Alexandria, who had run against Edwards in the 1971 Democratic primary, endorsed his former rival. Of Treen, Long, said: "I dealt with him for seven year [in the House], and I think he has a hard time working with people and coming up with compromise solutions."[42]Long incorrectly predicted that the Treen-Edwards showdown would be "a close race." In the dozen years between his race for governor in 1971 and the 1983 contest, Long said that the state political arena had changed from "the politics of personality to the politics of demographics."[42]

Treen challenged Edwards regarding the issuance of pardons and paroles. Whereas Treen had signed 34 pardons in three and a half years in the office, Edwards had inked 1,526 pardons or commutations of sentences in his first two terms. One of those pardoned in 1980 was a disgruntled client who ultimately murdered Edwards' brother, Nolan Edwards, an attorney in Crowley.[43]

Edwards handily unseated Treen to secure the third of his four terms as governor. Treen won only a handful of parishes, including rural La Salle Parish in north Louisiana, which supported him in all three of his gubernatorial bids. Treen received 586,643 (36.3 percent) to Edwards' 1,008,282 (62.4 percent). Another 1.3 percent was cast for minor candidates, one of whom was Robert M. Ross, who had also been Treen's Republican primary rival in 1971. Treen polled roughly 104,000 fewer votes in losing in 1983 than he had in winning in 1979. In a higher turnout, Edwards polled more than 400,000 votes beyond what Louis Lambert had received against Treen four years earlier.

Billy J. Guin, a Shreveport Republican figure who managed Treen's northwest Louisiana campaign in 1972, said that Treen refused to show favoritism to anyone and went out of his way to demonstrate fairness to his political opponents: "It got to the point that he would not take phone calls from his longtime supporters because he did not want to tell them 'No'. This of course alienated his own supporters and contributed to his defeat in 1983". Guin blamed the legislature, still largely under the domination of Edwards even during the Treen years, for contributing to Treen's defeat. Several of Treen's legislative allies were also toppled, including his frequent Democratic supporters, Dan Richey of Ferriday in Concordia Parish and Edward G. "Ned" Randolph, Jr., of Alexandria.

Failed nomination to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

After Treen's defeat for governor, President Reagan nominated him on July 22, 1987 for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans created by the death of veteran Judge Albert Tate, Jr. However, the appointment was delayed by Democratic senators on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee[44] who objected to Treen's past membership in the States' Rights Party and also to other unsubstantiated allegations. Treen withdrew his name from consideration in late April 1988, saying that he "could not afford to defer my professional and business activities" any longer, and that "some persons on the Democrat-controlled committee would just as soon see the vacancy go unfilled until after the the hope that a Democrat will succeed to the White House." However, the Senate wound up confirming Reagan's second choice, attorney John Malcolm Duhé, Jr., a New Iberia, later Lafayette, lawyer, who was the son-in-law of New Orleans Congressman F. Edward Hebert and former law partner of retired 3rd District Congressman Patrick T. Caffery. Another of Congressman Caffery's former law partners, Eugene Davis, was named to the federal bench in 1976 by President Gerald Ford and now sits on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, where Duhé had served.

Other political bids considered

Nonetheless, Treen maintained political ambitions even after his landslide defeat for re-election as governor. In 1984, he filed candidacy papers to oppose U.S. Senator Bennett Johnston, but quickly withdrew from the race, apparently when polls showed the popular Johnston unbeatable even in a potentially national Republican year.[45][46]

Treen considered, but decided against making, gubernatorial bids in 1991, 1995, and 2003.

Treen endorses Edwards

In 1991, despite their differences, Treen endorsed Edwards' bid for a fourth term because the Republican choice in the state's jungle primary fell on former Ku Klux Klansman and state Representative David Duke, by then a perennial candidate who was troublesome to the GOP and the business community. Though Duke claimed to have ended his ties to the KKK, there was lingering suspicion that he was still in contact with neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and other radical elements. Ironically, Duke won his single victory for public office, a seat in the state House of Representatives, by narrowly defeating Treen's brother, John S. Treen, a home builder in Jefferson Parish. Many Republicans blamed John Treen's lackluster campaign in that race for Duke's emergence as a major player in the 1990 U.S. Senate race, when he made a noticeable bid against incumbent Johnston, and in the 1991 gubernatorial election, when Duke secured a general election berth. A new interest group, the Louisiana Coalition against Racism and Nazism, appeared to fight the Duke gubernatorial candidacy. Among its leaders was the Republican political activist and longtime Treen supporter, Beth Rickey of New Orleans.

Congressional comeback attempt fails by 1,812 votes

In 1999, Treen attempted a political comeback by running for the U.S. House. By this time, his home in Mandeville had been drawn into the 1st District. That seat was being vacated by Representative Bob Livingston, who left Congress in a sex scandal amid the House vote on the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. This was the eighth election that Treen's name appeared on a Louisiana ballot for Congress.

In the special election with David Duke, also trying to score a comeback, and Republican state Representative David Vitter, Treen finished first with 36,719 votes (25%) to Vitter's 31,741 (22%) and Duke's 28,055 (19%). (Six other candidates, including New Orleans businessman Rob Couhig, shared the remaining 33% of the votes cast.) In the low-turnout special election runoff, Vitter defeated Treen, 61,661 ballots (51%) to 59,849 (49%), a margin of 1,812 votes. The race against Vitter was a bitter contest, with attacks flying back and forth. Many of Vitter's colleagues in the state legislature, including Republicans, supported Treen and charged that Vitter was difficult to work with as a legislator. Duke endorsed Treen over Vitter, perhaps to get back at Treen, hoping to defeat him, because Treen had supported Edwards against Duke in 1991. Vitter ultimately won the seat. In 2005, Vitter left the House to become the first Republican to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Louisiana since Reconstruction.

Treen in retirement

Treen declared that he would run for governor again in the 2003 election, at the age of 75, but the party leadership coalesced behind Bobby Jindal. Treen withdrew from the pre-primary race and worked for Jindal's election. Jindal lost the general election to Democratic Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Lafayette (who actually lost Lafayette Parish in the election). A year later, Jindal filled the House seat that Vitter vacated to become senator, the same seat that Treen had lost in his last campaign for elective office. Treen even discussed running for governor again in 2007 but never filed candidacy papers. In 2007, Jindal won the governor's election outright in the primary. Treen's old rival and reluctant ally, Edwin Edwards, meanwhile, went to prison for racketeering connected with his fourth gubernatorial term, the one that Treen had reluctantly blessed in preference to his greater nemesis, David Duke. Treen had urged then President George W. Bush to pardon Edwards or to commute his sentence to the time already served.

There was also speculation that Edwards actually voted for Treen in the 1979 election because he preferred to face Treen again in 1983, rather than the other Democratic possibilities who were running for governor against Treen. Earl Long similarly often quietly voted for the "anti-Long" gubernatorial candidate himself to set up a potential new governor for failure. Long would then run for governor again four years later against the "failed" (in Long's eyes) governor's stand-in. That was before Louisiana governors could succeed themselves in office. In 1997, Treen became the first Republican inducted into the Winnfield.

2008 Congressional bid

Treen announced on October 23, 2007, that he would be a candidate in the March 8 special election to succeed Bobby Jindal, who was elected governor. He cited his experience and political ties in Washington, D.C. as reasons for his candidacy.[47]

Treen had lost a race for this same seat in a 1999 special election to current U.S. Senator David Vitter. Four Republicans filed for the seat, and two faced an April 5 runoff election restricted to registered party members: State Representative Timothy G. Burns and State Senator Steve Scalise. Scalise won the runoff and a month later defeated Democrat Gilda Reed, a favorite of organized labor and the party's constituent groups.

Treen withdrew from consideration on January 28.[48] Treen endorsed the reelection of Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu in her 2008 race against Republican state Treasurer John Neely Kennedy, who resided in Mandeville, where Treen lived at the time.[49]


Treen died from complications from a respiratory illness at East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie.[50] Condolences and kinds words poured in from around the state, typified by Southeastern Louisiana University president John L. Crain's tribute that Treen "was a true Louisiana icon, a Republican governor in Louisiana before it was cool". His body lay in state at the Louisiana State Capitol following a memorial service on November 2, 2009. A second memorial service was held at St. Timothy United Methodist Church in Mandeville on November 3. The family requested memorials to, among several charities, the Methodist Children's Home in Mandeville.[2]

Republican State Chairman Roger F. Villere, Jr., of Metairie called the former governor "a courageous man who loved our country and our state. He fought the political establishment in the 1960s and 1970s when it was very difficult to elect a Republican in our state, and his career in political office was marked with integrity and fiscal discipline. It is important for younger voters to understand that Louisiana's commitment to high ethical standards and the existence of a viable two-party system in our state are relatively new developments. Just a quarter century ago, neither existed in a significant way. Dave Treen laid the foundation to change all that, and for that, millions of Louisiana citizens owe him a profound debt of gratitude."[51]

See also



  • Grover Rees III, Dave Treen of Louisiana (Baton Rouge: Moran Publishing, 1979)

External links

  • Official Biography
  • Former Governor Aids Medical Students
  • General Edwin Walker's New Orleans Links
Political offices
Preceded by
Edwin Edwards
Governor of Louisiana
March 10, 1980 – March 12, 1984
Succeeded by
Edwin Edwards
Preceded by
Patrick T. Caffery
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Wilbert J. "Billy" Tauzin, Jr.

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