Hunt Downer

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Hunt Downer
Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs
In office
2004–2008
Governor Kathleen Blanco
Bobby Jindal
Preceded by Joey Strickland
Succeeded by Lane Carson
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from District 52 (Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes)
In office
1976–2004
Preceded by Elward T. Brady, Jr.

Morris Lottinger, Jr.

Succeeded by Gordon Dove
Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives
In office
1996–2000
Preceded by John Alario
Succeeded by Charlie DeWitt
Personal details
Born (1946-04-28) April 28, 1946 (age 68)
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Linda Downer
Children Mary and Blair
Alma mater Terrebonne High School
Louisiana State University
Nicholls State University

Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Occupation Attorney, politician, military veteran

Major General Huntington Blair Downer, Jr., known as Hunt Downer (born April 28, 1946), is a Republican politician in the U.S. state of Louisiana who is the former assistant adjutant general of the state National Guard and the first ever director of the new Louisiana Veterans Affairs Department.

A former Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives from Houma, the seat of Terrebonne Parish in south Louisiana, Downer ran for governor in 2003 and finished in sixth place in the nonpartisan blanket primary.

Early years[edit]

Downer graduated from Terrebonne High School in Houma in 1964 and first attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Nicholls State University (then College) in Thibodaux in Lafourche Parish. He was named to Who's Who Among Colleges and Universities in 1967. He received his law degree from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law in 1972. He did graduate work at LSU and studied at the U.S. Army War College in 1999.[1]

While he was in college and law school, Downer held a number of odd jobs: oilfield roustabout from 1970–71, legislative assistant from 1970–72, and school bus driver from 1965-70.

Army career[edit]

Downer joined the United States Army Reserve as an enlisted man in 1968. He obtained a commission in 1971 as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He then joined the National Guard as a First Lieutenant of the Judge Advocate General Corps. In time, Downer became a Lieutenant Colonel, Brigadier General, and currently a Major General. He served in Operation Desert Storm from October 1990 to May 1991. Downer has won more than a dozen military awards, including the Legion of Merit and the Kuwait Liberation Medal.[1]

State House of Representatives[edit]

Downer was first elected as a Democrat to the state House in the first ever nonpartisan blanket primary in the fall of 1975. He represented District 52 (Lafourche and his native Terrebonne parishes) from 1976 until January 2004. In his penultimate term, 1996–2000, he was Speaker during the administration of Republican Governor Murphy J. "Mike" Foster, Jr. Foster removed Downer as Speaker and replaced him with another Democrat, Charles W. DeWitt of Rapides Parish. Former legislator Ron Gomez of Lafayette said that Downer "did a terrific job [as Speaker] before being unceremoniously dumped by Governor Foster after the fall 1999 elections."[2]

In 1987, Downer, as a Democrat, was named "Legislator of the Month" by the Louisiana Municipal Association. He was named "Outstanding Young Man of the Year" in 1977 by the Jaycees. He won the American Jurisprudence Award in 1971. During much of his legislative career through December 2003, Downer was affiliated with the law firm of Waitz & Downer in Houma.

In 2000, Downer endorsed the Republican presidential ticket of George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney. A year later, he formally switched parties, at Bush's invitation, and announced his candidacy for governor in 2003.

Three Republican gubernatorial candidates dropped out early and endorsed Downer: former Governor David C. Treen of St. Tammany Parish, veteran state Senator Ken Hollis of Jefferson Parish, and Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Jack A. "Jay" Blossman, Jr., of Mandeville in St. Tammany Parish. However, the majority of Republican voters supported Bobby L. Jindal, then of Baton Rouge (later a congressman from the New Orleans suburbs).

Downer secured the endorsement of thirty-three members of the state legislature from both parties and both chambers, including Republican Representatives Carl Crane of Baton Rouge and Ernie Alexander of Lafayette as well as the Democrat Francis C. Thompson of Delhi in Richland Parish in northeast Louisiana. Yet, Downer received only 84,718 votes (6 percent) in the primary, compared to 444,389 ballots (33 percent) for Jindal. In turn, Jindal was defeated by the leading Democrat Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Lafayette in the general election. Soon after her election, Blanco appointed Downer as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, and later as her legislative director in the Office of the Governor.[3]

Downer is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, and the United States Court of Military Appeals. He is married to the former Linda Faye Lee. In 2007, Downer was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.

2010 U.S. Congressional race[edit]

Downer was a candidate for Louisiana's 3rd congressional district, being vacated by Democrat Charlie Melancon in a bid for the United States Senate. In January 2010, Downer told his hometown paper, The Courier, that he was "99.9 percent" sure that he would run.[4] He lost a party runoff on October 2, 2010, to newcomer Jeff Landry, who had the support of the Tea Party movement.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b http://www.ng.mil/ngbgomo/library/bio/downer_h.htm
  2. ^ Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron And I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative, Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, p. 182
  3. ^ http://www.blancogovernor.com/index.cfm?md=pagebuilder&tmp=home&cpid=28
  4. ^ Alford, Jeremy. Downer likely to enter race for Congress. The Courier, 2010-01-30.
  5. ^ Grace, Stephanie (2010-10-19). "Partisan divide comes late to Louisiana". Times-Picayune (Saint Tammany Edition). p. B5. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 

External links[edit]

Louisiana House of Representatives
Preceded by
John A. Alario, Jr., of Jefferson Parish
Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives

Huntington Blair Downer, Jr., of Terrebonne Parish
1996–2000

Succeeded by
Charles W. "Charlie" DeWitt, Jr., of Rapides Parish
Preceded by
Elward T. Brady, Jr.

Morris Lottinger, Jr.

Louisiana State Representative from Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes

Huntington Blair Downer, Jr.
1976–2004

Succeeded by
Gordon Dove