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David Treen-Congressional Photo Directory, 1977
|51st Governor of Louisiana|
March 10, 1980 – March 12, 1984
|Preceded by||Edwin Edwards|
|Succeeded by||Edwin Edwards|
|Member of the |
U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 3rd District
January 3, 1973 – March 10, 1980
|Preceded by||Patrick T. Caffery|
|Succeeded by||Billy Tauzin|
|Born||David Conner Treen|
July 16, 1928
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||October 29, 2009 (aged 81)|
Metairie, Louisiana, U.S.
|Resting place||Saint Timothy United Methodist Church Memorial Garden, Mandeville, Louisiana, U.S.|
|Political party||Republican (1962–2009) |
Democratic (until 1962)
|States' Rights (1960)|
|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||Tulane University (BA, LLB)|
|Service/branch||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1951–1952|
David Conner Treen Sr. (July 16, 1928 – October 29, 2009), was an American attorney and politician from Mandeville, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. In 1979 he was elected as the first Republican Governor of the U.S. state of Louisiana since Reconstruction. It was a sign of changing party affiliations among white conservatives in the state, who have comprised a majority of the population since at least 1900. In 1972 Treen was the first Republican elected in modern times from this state to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The long absence of Republicans from state positions, from the turn of the century through much of the 1960s, was due to the party having been hollowed out by the Democrats passing a new constitution in 1898 that disenfranchised most African Americans in the state, who made up 47% of the population in 1900. But by 1900, two years after the new constitution, only 5,320 black voters were registered in the state, despite their advances in education and literacy. They had constituted the majority of Republican Party members in the 19th century after gaining the franchise as freedmen and citizens in the post-Civil War years.
Treen served as governor from 1980–84. He lost his bid in 1983 for reelection to his popular long-time rival, Democrat Edwin Edwards, who was returning after two previous terms. Treen had earlier been elected to Congress in 1972, serving from 1973-80. Treen grew up as a Democrat, but joined the Republican Party in 1962. At the time, there were about 10,000 registered Republicans in the state; African Americans, who had previously made up most of the party members, were still mostly disenfranchised. By the time of Treen's death in 2009, only a few other living Louisiana Republicans had exceeded his length of tenure in the Republican Party.
- 1 Early years and family
- 2 States' Rights Party elector candidate, 1960
- 3 Republican for Congress, 1962, 1964, and 1968
- 4 First gubernatorial campaign, 1971–1972
- 5 Election to Congress, 1972
- 6 Election as governor, 1979
- 7 Accomplishments as governor
- 8 Treen and Freeman
- 9 Facing Edwards again, 1983
- 10 Failed nomination to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
- 11 Other political bids considered
- 12 Treen endorses Edwards
- 13 Congressional comeback attempt fails by 1,812 votes
- 14 Treen in retirement
- 15 2008 Congressional bid
- 16 Death
- 17 See also
- 18 References
- 19 Sources
- 20 External links
Early years and family
Treen was born in the state capital of Baton Rouge, to Elizabeth Treen (née Speir; 1899–1990) and Joseph Paul Treen, Sr. (1900–1986). He had two brothers, Joseph Paul Treen, Jr. and John Speir Treen.
In 1945, Treen graduated from the former Alcee Fortier High School, public school in New Orleans, where his classmates included the subsequent political consultant and journalist Victor Gold. 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, Treen married Dolores "Dodi" Brisbi (November 23, 1929 – March 19, 2005), a graduate of Newcomb College in New Orleans. They met during college.
Treen served in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1952. After his discharge, Treen joined the law firm of Deutsch, Kerrigan & Stiles. He also served as a vice president of the Simplex Manufacturing Corporation of New Orleans from 1952–57.
The Treens had three children, Jennifer (born ca. 1952), David C., Jr. and Cynthia (born April 2, 1954). (Their children married, and the Treens had a total of nine grandchildren. Treen's eldest grandson, Jason Stewart Neville (born May 21, 1979), was one of the founding members of the Green Party of Louisiana; he ran unsuccessfully in 2003 for the Louisiana State Senate.
States' Rights Party elector candidate, 1960
In the post-World War II era, African-American veterans and other leaders pushed to regain recognition of their constitutional rights as citizens, especially in the South, where they were disenfranchised, excluded from politics, and treated as second-class citizens. The civil rights movement gained increasing force through the 1960s. In 1954 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. By 1960 African Americans made up a declining proportion of the state's population, as many thousands had left in the Great Migration. They constituted 32% of the population.
In 1960, Treen opposed the election of both Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat John F. Kennedy as president. He ran as an elector for the Louisiana States' Rights Party (known as the Dixiecrats), which supported Virginia Democratic U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. In addition to Treen, States' Rights electors from Louisiana included former State Senator William M. Rainach of Claiborne Parish (a defeated 1959 gubernatorial candidate) and Plaquemines Parish Judge Leander Perez. The Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Perez because of his outspoken opposition to racial integration. Another elector was the "Radical Right" figure Kent Courtney of New Orleans and later Alexandria. Former Congressman Jared Y. Sanders, Jr. of Baton Rouge, son of former Governor Jared Y. Sanders, Sr., was also a States Rights elector.
Treen emphasized that his states' rights group was not affiliated with the National States' Rights Party, a group considered neo-Nazi, and which he said was "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. It supported the Democratic national candidate Kennedy with 51.8%. Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. electors received 230,980 (28.6%) in Louisiana. Kennedy-Johnson won the state's ten electoral votes with 407,339 (50.4%). One of the Kennedy electors was popular State Attorney General Jack P.F. Gremillion. 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.
Republican for Congress, 1962, 1964, and 1968
In 1962 Treen joined the Republican Party (GOP), which was still small in Louisiana after having suffered a dramatic decline with the exclusion of African Americans from politics since the late 19th century. He ran in 1962 for the U.S. House of Representatives from Louisiana's 2nd congressional district, based in New Orleans, against incumbent Democrat Hale Boggs (1914–1972) of New Orleans. Treen's father had urged him to challenge Boggs for renomination in the Democratic primary. As a young Democrat in 1956, Treen had supported then Republican congressional nominee George R. Blue against Boggs that year. Blue later switched to the Democrats and won election to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1964.
Treen raised $11,000 for his 1962 campaign and polled 27,791 votes (32.8 percent) to Boggs' 57,395 (67.2 percent).
In 1964, Treen again challenged Boggs. He improved on his earlier showing, helped by the popularity in Louisiana of the presidential candidacy of U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater. In addition many of his constituents were unhappy that Boggs had voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which most Southern Democratic Congressmen had voted against. In the 1964 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, in the year that the Voting Rights Act was passed by Congress, enabling some African Americans to register across the South. Treen ran again in 1968 in his third and final campaign against Boggs, who was 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 in 1968 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 1971 in the only Republican gubernatorial closed primary ever held in Louisiana. the state follows a practice of open primaries. 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 had a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Ross was a businessman in Mangham, including a mobile home park. In the 1971 primary, Treen gained the support of the party leadership, including chairman Charles deGravelles of Lafayette. In a campaign tour in Minden, in which he visited with Republican Mayor Tom Colten, Treen said that Louisiana needed "true competition" in state government, or "a system in which two political parties operate on a continuing and permanent basis to examine and criticize each other's policies and programs." If elected, Treen said that he would be "as independent as possible" in the governorship.
Treen received 9,732 votes (92 percent) to Ross's 839 (8 percent). 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, but he lost. His chances seemed to improve when the American Party nominee, Hall Lyons of Lafayette, a son of GOP pioneer Charlton Lyons of Shreveport, withdrew after Edwards predicted 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.
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. 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's a Republican.
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.
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. They had only been able to vote in number since passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. 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 2 percent among African Americans. While African Americans in the 19th and early 20th century had been part of the Republican Party, following the civil rights era, they joined the Democratic Party, which had supported their struggle to regain their constitutional rights.
Numerous Republican legislative candidates ran on the Treen ticket, but most of those outside Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and Jefferson Parish were defeated. 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. He succeeded his former ticket mate, Tom Stagg, who later was appointed as a U.S. District judge in Shreveport.
Treen's friend James H. Boyce, a Baton Rouge businessman, served as state party chairman while Treen was national committeeman. Over the years, Treen benefited from other 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, and National Committeewoman Virginia Martinez of New Orleans, the treasurer of the national party conventions in 1980 and 1984.
In 1972, based in part on the strength of his gubernatorial race, Treen ran for the open Louisiana's 3rd congressional district seat vacated by conservative Democrat Patrick T. Caffery of New Iberia. He was a surprise winner, helped in part by the popularity of the Republican Nixon-Agnew ticket, which carried sixty-three of the sixty-four parishes (the exception, West Feliciana Parish) in what had traditionally been Democratic Louisiana. Treen defeated Democrat J. Louis Watkins, Jr., of Houma, 71,090 (54 percent) to 60,521 (46 percent). Treen's home parish of Jefferson helped to push him over the top, supporting him with 73 percent share of the vote. Treen was elected as 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, being re-elected twice. He resigned when he was elected as 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 year when Democrats won the presidency. He defeated State Representative Charles Grisbaum, Jr., of Jefferson Parish, who became a close friend. Grisbaum later switched parties. After 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 won Louisiana's 6th 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, in a year when Jimmy Carter, Democrat from Georgia, carried Louisiana over Gerald R. Ford (R).
Election as governor, 1979
In 1979, Treen hired Gus Weill for his campaign for the governorship; Weill was a Democrat who in 1958 had established the first political public relations firm in Baton Rouge and who served as John McKeithen's former campaign manager. Campaigning for Treen was U.S. Senator John Tower of Texas; at the Shreveport Convention Center he said, "We are not here as Republicans. We are not here as Democrats. We are here as citizens who have aspirations for our country." Tower said that his backing for Treen was based on the candidate's "character, enormous ability, his sense of what is right, and his complete dedication to the sovereign state."
Treen reached out to African Americans, but most voted for Democratic candidates. Alexandria attorney P. Spencer Torry (born 1930), an African-American female Republican, described Treen as "an honest man who keeps his word. He's promised to improve education, job training, and provide more opportunities for the minorities. I've talked to Dave Treen, and I believe him."
In 1979, Treen ran in the nonpartisan blanket primary (jungle primary) for governor, the second such election held in Louisiana. He finished with 297,469 votes, nearly the same results as posted by Charlton Lyons in the 1964 general election, 284 fewer votes than Lyons had in a two-candidate field. The second spot was hotly contested between Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Louis Lambert of Ascension parish (282,708 votes) and outgoing Lieutenant Governor Jimmy Fitzmorris, of New Orleans (280,412 votes). Fitzmorris unsuccessfully sued in an attempt to force Lambert from the number-two position so Fitzmorris could face Treen in the general election.
In the Treen-Lambert general election, the defeated Democratic candidates, including the disappointed Fitzmorris, House Speaker E. L. Henry of Jonesboro, Secretary of State Paul Hardy of St. Martinville and State Senator 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, Treen had gained most of his support from 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. The GOP nominee overcame large deficits from 1972 to win in 1979. Treen received 3.1% of the black vote, nearly identical to his black support in 1972.
On March 10, 1980, Treen, aged 51, became the 51st governor of his state. His oath of office was administered by 19th Judicial Court Judge Douglas Gonzales, a Republican from Baton Rouge. Gonzales gave Treen a Bible inscribed, "Dave, Upon this good book, you took your oath of office. Please keep it close so it can serve as a constant reminder of your solemn commitment to the people of this great state ..."
Treen 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.
In the spring of 1980 special election for the House seat vacated by Treen, Democrat State Representative Billy Tauzin of Thibodaux defeated fellow Democrat, State Senator Anthony Guarisco, Jr., of Morgan City, and the Democrat-turned-Republican Jim Donelon of Metairie, who had just lost a Democratic race for lieutenant governor.
Treen reappointed Shreveport attorney Robert G. Pugh to the Louisiana Board of Regents created by the Constitution of 1974. Pugh advised Treen on numerous issues. He developed 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, some 10 of the 105 members of the Louisiana House of Representatives were Republican; all 39 state senators were Democrats.
Accomplishments as governor
The Treen administration is known for the establishment of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, a statewide high school for gifted children located on the campus of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. Treen established the Department of Environmental Quality. He accused "political special interests" loyal to Edwin Edwards with undermining his effort.
During his single term, Treen appointed more African Americans to state offices than had any other previous governor in history. He took great pride in this achievement as his best. Two Treen campaign confidants, John H. Cade, Jr., of Alexandria and William "Billy" Nungesser of New Orleans, worked as unpaid advisers in the administration. Cade had managed Treen's successful congressional races in 1972, 1974, 1976, and 1978. He directed the successful 1979 gubernatorial race. Cade was the Republican state chairman from 1976 to 1978, and Nungesser chaired the GOP central committee from 1988 to 1992.
Treen named Lockport shipbuilder, Donald G. Bollinger as the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections. Bollinger also served for two years as the state Republican chairman prior to Nungesser. After taking office, Treen elevated Ansel M. Stroud, Jr., from assistant adjutant general to adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard, a position which Stroud continued to hold until 1997.
Treen appointed to office all of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates who endorsed him. 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. Treen named Paul Hardy as 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. Many of the Democrat legislators are believed to have 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.
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 in order to improve teaching performance. Problems developed when numerous teachers signed up for classes with limited academic requirements and shunned the more rigorous courses. Such actions by the educators undermined the purpose of Treen's reform. Edwards dismantled the program when he returned to office in 1984.
Treen signed into law a measure requiring "balanced" treatment in public school instruction regarding evolution and creation science, authored by Senator Bill Keith of Caddo Parish. The measure was struck down in 1987, after Treen had left office, by the United States Supreme Court in the case Edwards v. Aguillard, as creation science is not science but religious teaching.
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.
Governor Treen developed a reputation for indecision and micromanagement of details. 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 in December 1983 after he was defeated for re-election earlier that year. He established in 1981 the Litter Control and Recycling Commission, as a measure to improve quality of life in cities and other areas. Violators faced potential fines of $100 to $500 and/or several days of litter collection from along state highways.
In 1982, Treen proposed a $450 million tax on petroleum and natural gas, to support preservation of coastal wetlands, as more was being understood about their critical role in protecting the coast. It was known as the Coastal Wetlands Environmental Levy, but the measure ran into strong opposition from conservatives and the trade association, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). 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. LABI director Edward J. Steimel announced immediate opposition to CWEL. CWEL was defeated in the Louisiana House although 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.
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. In 1986, out of office, Treen noted that state finances had declined by $450 million, an amount which he had projected CWEL would have brought into the state treasury.
In December 1982, Treen said that he had abandoned his call for new taxes and would 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 schools and repeal of a $5 million tax exemption provided to Blue Cross Blue Shield in Louisiana.
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.
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 blamed 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.
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.
Treen and Freeman
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Treen had difficulty working with the lieutenant governor, Democrat 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 recommended $411,907, an amount considerably lower than Freeman had requested; the latter said he would have to lay off 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."
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. Freeman worked for the return of Edwin Edwards to the governorship. Freeman won re-election in 1983 by defeating Edwards' first lieutenant governor, fellow Democrat Fitzmorris. Treen suffered a stinging defeat by Edwards.
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 forgo 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.
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." As of June 30, 1983, Edwards raised far more campaign cash than Treen, $5.4 million to $2.1 million. 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. 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.
U.S. Representative Gillis William Long of Alexandria endorsed Edwards. 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." Long incorrectly predicted that the Treen-Edwards showdown would be "a close race." Long said that the state political arena had changed from 1971, when he ran for governor, to the 1983 contest, from "the politics of personality to the politics of demographics."
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 approved 1,526 pardons or commutations of sentences in his first two terms. One of those pardoned in 1980 was a man who became a client of and murdered Edwards' brother, Nolan Edwards, an attorney in Crowley.
Edwards handily unseated Treen to secure the third of his four terms as governor. Treen won 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, Treen's Republican primary rival in 1971.
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 who objected to Treen's past membership in the States' Rights Party and other 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 election....in the hope that a Democrat will succeed to the White House."
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. 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 candidate who survived the nonpartisan blanket primary was State Representative David Duke, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and 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. Treen denounced Duke's candidacy: "I think he is bad for our party because of his espousal of Nazism and racial superiority."
Ironically, Duke won his single victory for public office, a seat in the state House, 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 and the journalist Quin Hillyer.
Congressional comeback attempt fails by 1,812 votes
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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 supported Treen and charged that Vitter was difficult to work with as a legislator. Duke, hoping to damage Treen's chances, endorsed the former Governor, and Vitter 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
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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 Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield, Louisiana.
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.
Treen had lost a race for this same seat in a 1999 special election to eventual 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. 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.
Treen died from complications from a respiratory illness at East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie. 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.
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."
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- "Gov. Treen issues warning to litterbugs", Minden Press-Herald, November 11, 1982, pg. 1
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- "Gov. Treen vetoes 24 bills Wednesday", Minden Press-Herald, August 5, 1982, pg. 1
- "Treen blames LABI for worker compensation failure", Minden Press-Herald, July 14, 1982, pg. 1
- "Special session ends Monday night: Worker's comp passes; fees increased", Minden Press-Herald, January 18, 1983, p. 1
- "Freeman lashes out at Treen", Minden Press-Herald, June 30, 1983, p. 5
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- "Treen opens campaign against Edwards", Minden Press-Herald, December 10, 1982, pg. 1
- "Pile of unpaid bills; a stinking surplus", Minden Press-Herald, July 18, 1983, pg. 3
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- "Ex-Louisiana Leader To Be Named a Judge", The New York Times, July 23, 1987.
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- Treen to seek Jindal's 1st District House seat Archived January 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine., nola.com, October 23, 2007.
- Campaign watch: Two quit race for Jindal seat in U.S. House, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, January 28, 2008.
- Mike Hasten, "Kennedy, Landrieu push for votes as Senate showdown approaches"[permanent dead link], Alexandria Daily Town Talk, November 4, 2008.
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- United States Congress. "Dave Treen (id: T000362)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- Former Governor Aids Medical Students
- General Edwin Walker's New Orleans Links
| Governor of Louisiana
March 10, 1980 – March 12, 1984
|U.S. House of Representatives|
Patrick T. Caffery
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 3rd congressional district
January 3, 1973–March 10, 1980
Wilbert J. "Billy" Tauzin, Jr.