On Jan. 30, Louisiana’s Democratic Party will choose a new chairman to replace the outgoing Chris Whittington, who resigned on Dec. 23, and as of right now a familiar name appears a shoo-in for the job.
According to the Lafayette Advertiser, that name is Buddy Leach. The paper reported yesterday that so far Leach is the only candidate for the position, though acting party chair Michael McHale, who will return to his role as vice-chairman upon the ascension of Whittington’s replacement, did say another candidate is expected.
Leach certainly knows his way around a political campaign. He’s run for office at least 10 times, having lost in five of his last six attempts. Leach’s last successful race was for the U.S. Congress in 1978, when after resigning a state representative seat he’d held since 1967 he beat Republican Jimmy Wilson with the aid of thousands of store-bought votes which caused a major black eye for the state of Louisiana and cast a giant shadow over Leach’s short-lived Congressional career. He was acquitted of bribery charges surrounding the scandal, but 25 others either pled guilty or were convicted of buying votes on his behalf.
Since 1978, Leach has lost every race he’s run but one. He was beaten in a re-election bid for his congressional seat by Charles Roemer in 1980, then won his old seat in the state House of Representatives in 1983 and ended up as the House Ways And Means chairman during Edwin Edwards’ disastrous 1984-88 term. Leach left his seat a little early to run for state treasurer in 1987, losing to Mary Landrieu. Then he ran for his old Congressional seat in 1988 and lost. Leach got the message for a while and went into retirement, but came out of oblivion in 2003 to run for governor of all things. Despite spending $8.3 million of his own money, Leach captured just 187,872 votes – which brought his expenditures to an astonishing $44.43 per vote.
Leach finally ran for the state senate in 2007 – and lost. He did serve as the state party’s national committeeman in 2006-07, issuing a memorable quote upon his selection to that post: “Louisiana is a Democratic state.” Democrats have lost all but three statewide and congressional elections since his having made the statement.
With Leach as the state party chairman, should no one else come to the forefront this month, the major takeaway would be his tight relationship with former governor Kathleen Blanco – who is rumored to be working behind the scenes to rebuild her political influence, though for what purpose is not clear.