Michael G. Strain

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Michael Gene "Mike" Strain
Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry
Incumbent
Assumed office
January 14, 2008
Preceded by Bob Odom
Louisiana State Representative from District 74 (St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes)
In office
2000–2008
Preceded by R. H. "Bill" Strain
Succeeded by Scott M. Simon
Personal details
Born (1958-12-02) December 2, 1958 (age 55)
Covington, St. Tammany Parish
Louisiana, USA
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Dr. Susan Searcy Strain
Children Melissa and Michael Strain
Occupation Veterinarian; Rancher
Religion Roman Catholic

Michael Gene Strain, known as Mike Strain (born December 2, 1958),[1] is the first Republican ever elected to the position of Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry.

A former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from Covington in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, Strain took his new position with his state's other constitutional officers on January 14, 2008.

Background[edit]

A veterinarian and rancher, Strain was born in Covington to Charles "Butch" Strain, Jr., and Carol Strain of Abita Springs, a small town in St. Tammany Parish. He graduated in 1976 from Covington High School. In 1983, he earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from LSU. He and his veterinarian wife, Dr. Susan Searcy Strain (born January 31, 1958), a native of Hot Springs, Arkansas, operate Claiborne Hill Veterinary Hospital in Covington. The Strains have two children, Melissa and Michael. They attend St. Jane's d'Chantal Catholic Church in Abita Springs.[2]

Strain, a cousin of St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Rodney "Jack" Strain, Jr., is a former member of the Sheriff’s Office Reserves and a former commissioner for the St. Tammany Parish Fire District. He was chosen by the Centers for Disease Control as one of three Louisiana veterinarians to have been instructed in awareness of bioterrorism. Dr. Strain is a past president and board member for the Louisiana Farm Bureau and is affiliated with the Louisiana Cattlemen's Association.[3]

State representative[edit]

In 1999, Strain was elected to the Louisiana House from District 74, a conservative constituency located in St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. In 2000, he succeeded a cousin, R.H. "Bill" Strain, a veteran Democratic lawmaker. Strain was re-elected without opposition in 2003.[4]

In the legislature, Strain chaired the Rural Caucus for two terms and was named Legislator of the Year by the St. Tammany Parish Alliance for Good Government.

Campaign critics[edit]

In the campaign, some conservatives questioned Strain's legislative votes for higher taxes, including his support for the Stelly Plan (named for former State Representative Vic Stelly of Lake Charles). Nevertheless, Strain carried the support of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum, which honored him in 2007 as one of twenty-three lawmakers designated as an "Outstanding Family Advocate".[5]

Agriculture commissioner[edit]

Campaign[edit]

Early in 2007, Strain entered the race for Commissioner of Agriculture & Forestry of Louisiana in opposition to the 28-year Democratic incumbent Robert Fulton "Bob" Odom, Jr.,[6] who in recent years had been engulfed in multiple personal corruption allegations.

Numerous newspapers endorsed Strain's candidacy. They include the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Shreveport Times, the Monroe News Star in Monroe (the seat of Ouachita Parish in northeast Louisiana) and the Alexandria Daily Town Talk in Alexandria (the seat of Rapides Parish in central Louisiana).[7] In declaring its support for Strain, the Times-Picayune said that the department is "badly in need of change. The department in recent years has run amok, particularly as it embarked on an ill-conceived and wasteful building campaign. Taxpayers are now carrying a $56 million debt risk for a syrup mill that's not meeting production projections. Yet the department sought to build a separate $135 million mill last year until public pressure helped kill the project . . . "

Strain also received the endorsement of the Louisiana Republican Party and the support of Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter, who urged voters to elect Strain in order to "move beyond our past of cronyism and corruption. "[8]

Election returns[edit]

In the October 20, open primary, Odom led Strain, 505,466 (41 percent) to 494,726 (40 percent). Two other candidates, Republicans Wayne Carter, a conservative member of the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro council from Odom's own Zachary, and Don Johnson, a farmer from Transylvania in East Carroll Parish, trailed with 152,872 (13 percent) and 69,469 (6 percent), respectively. The total Republican vote hence totaled 59 percent. Johnson had also run against Odom in 1987, 1991, 1995, and 2003.[9]

Less than a week later, Odom announced that he would not contest the general election. Therefore, Strain was declared the winner of the election.[10]

Strain won a second term as agriculture commissioner in the primary held on October 22, 2011. With 640,631 votes (66.5 percent), he defeated two politically unknown opponents, Democrat Jamie LaBranche, who trailed with 267,576 votes (27.8 percent), and Republican Belinda Alexandrenko, who polled 54,842 votes (5.7 percent).[11]

2015 gubernatorial race[edit]

Strain earlier said that he will likely run for governor when the seat is contested again in 2015.[12] The incumbent, Republican Bobby Jindal, will be term-limited from seeking a third term.

In 2012, Strain, presumably seeking future allies in a race for governor, became the first statewide or multiparish political figure to make an endorsement in the heated Third Congressional District race between Republican incuments Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry. Strain chose Boustany, the winning candidate, having cited the representative's past support for the agricultural sector.[13]

On June 28, 2013, Strain bowed out of further consideration in the gubernatorial race and announced in New Orleans that he will instead seek a third term as agriculture commissioner; in his words, "to keep the job I love." Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, who is expected to seek the governorship, said he is pleased that Strain is seeking reelection because the two would have appealed to the same segment of voters had both entered the race to succeed Bobby Jindal.[14]

Electoral history[edit]

State Representative, 74th Representative District, 1999

Threshold > 50% plus one vote

First Ballot, October 23, 1999

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Mike Strain Republican 10,827 (70%) Elected
Bob Ellis Republican 3,150 (20%) Defeated
Dick Donahue Republican 1,499 (10%) Defeated

State Representative, 74th Representative District, 2003

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, October 4, 2003

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Mike Strain Republican Unopposed Elected

Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, 2007

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, October 20, 2007

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bob Odom Democratic 505,504 (41%) Runoff
Mike Strain Republican 494,760 (40%) Runoff
Wayne Carter Republican 152,893 (13%) Defeated
Don Johnson Republican 69,470 (6%) Defeated

References[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert H. "Bill" Strain (D)
Louisiana State Representative from District 74 (St. Tammany Parish)

Michael Gene Strain (R)
2000–2008

Succeeded by
Scott M. Simon
Preceded by
Bob Odom (D)
Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry
January 14, 2008 - present
Succeeded by
Incumbent