LaHistory: Foster and Buddy’s Comeback Bid

Foster and Buddy’s Comeback Bid

In 1995, Louisiana’s political landscape was shifting. Frustrated with problems in the gambling industry, bad press, and numerous investigations, Edwin Edwards was retiring after four terms in the Governor’s Mansion.

The large field to succeed him included such notables as Mary LandrieuMelinda SchwegmannBuddy RoemerDave Treen, Cleo FieldsBill Jefferson and Harry Lee.

Overshadowed by these big names was a little-known state senator from Franklin named Mike Foster.

Roemer, as the sole Republican, had a comfortable lead in all of the early polls. Embarrassed by his poor showing in 1991, the former governor was determined to win back the office he had vacated just four years earlier. He focused on running a more disciplined campaign and dedicated a greater effort to honing his message.

Hoping to recapture some of the grassroots magic of his earlier races, Roemer even began standing out in front of Wal-Marts around the state, hoping to get a few personal moments with voters as they shopped.

As the summer turned to fall, politicos, pollsters and pundits pegged Roemer as the secure frontrunner while the other candidates battled for the second runoff spot.

During qualifying, however, the race changed drastically.

Before filing, Foster decided to change parties and registered as a Republican. The abrupt switch garnered the nascent Foster campaign media coverage and their poll numbers surged.

With a conservative challenger to contend with, Roemer’s camp began hemorrhaging support amid a run of bad luck. For instance, when Foster touted his anti-gambling platform, Roemer bungled his response to questions about gambling legislation passed on his watch.

Roemer was also dealt a serious blow when Treen and Lee dropped out and publicly endorsed Foster. Even Democrats began ignoring Roemer during forums and debates.

With Foster gaining momentum, Roemer went negative in desperation. He ran TV spots statewide, focusing on a meeting Lee had set up with some major Democratic donors with connections to Edwards. The clumsy attempt to tie Foster to EWE went nowhere.

On Election Day, Foster headed to the runoff, while Roemer finished fourth with 19 percent.

By Mitch Rabalais

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