|Louisiana State Representative from East Baton Rouge Parish (now District 66)|
|Preceded by||At-large members:
|Succeeded by||Mike Futrell|
|Born||Louis Elwood Jenkins, Jr.
January 3, 1947
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
|Political party||Republican (c. 1962-1971, 1994–present)
|Spouse(s)||Diane Aker Jenkins|
|Children||Margaret Jenkins Savoye
Elizabeth Ann Jenkins
|Parents||Louis Jenkins, Sr.
Dorothy Laverne Rowlett Jenkins
East Baton Rouge Parish
|Alma mater||Istrouma High School
|Occupation||Newspaper publisher and editor
Louis Elwood Jenkins, Jr., known as Woody Jenkins (born January 3, 1947), is a newspaper editor in Central City, Louisiana, who served as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1972 to 2000 and waged three unsuccessful races for the United States Senate in 1978, 1980, and 1996.
Jenkins was born in the capital city of Baton Rouge to the late Louis E. "Ory" Jenkins, Sr., and the former Doris Laverne Rowlett (1922-2013), a native of Houston, Texas, who was reared in Shreveport and Alvin, Texas. Early in their married life, his parents operated a restaurant, Little Ory's Den in Ponchatoula in Tangipahoa Parish. Later Ory Jenkins was employed as an operator by Ethyl Corporation. Doris Jenkins worked in safety deposit at the American Bank on the Plank Road in Baton Rouge, a position from which she retired in 1982 after twenty-five years.
He attended Istrouma High School, where he served as student body president and was his 1965 class valedictorian. While in high school, he worked as a radio newsman at WLCS and in college as an announcer at WAFB-TV, the CBS affiliate in Baton Rouge. While at the Louisiana State University School of Journalism, he became the conservative columnist for the LSU student newspaper, The Daily Reveille.
At age nineteen, while still in journalism school, Jenkins and his future wife, the former Diane Aker, who is a few days older than Jenkins, started a community weekly newspaper, the North Baton Rouge Journal, which was honored by the Louisiana Press Association for editorial writing. Jenkins received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from LSU in 1969 and a Juris Doctor degree from the Louisiana State University Law Center, where he was a member in 1972 of the Law Review.
Jenkins owned an advertising agency from 1972 to 1981, when he became executive director of the Council for National Policy. From 1985 to 2005, he was president and general manager of WBTR-TV in Baton Rouge. Since 2005, he has served as editor of the Central City News, a community weekly newspaper. At WBTR-TV, he produced a daily television news program from 1991 to 2005, Baton Rouge Today, which won first place as the Best Community News Program in the nation from the Community Broadcasters Association. The Central City News has won more than twenty national and state awards from the National Newspaper Association and the Louisiana Press Association, including General Excellence, Best Feature Writing, Best Columnist, and Best Local News Coverage. Jenkins is an inductee of the LSU Journalism School Hall of Fame.
Jenkins had been a Young Republican in high school. At seventeen, he was a page for State Representatives Morley A. Hudson and Taylor W. O'Hearn, the first Republicans elected to the Louisiana House since Reconstruction. However, in 1971, he switched to the Democratic Party to run for a Baton Rouge-area seat in the state House. Even though Louisiana was becoming increasingly friendly to Republicans nationally, Democrats still fully dominated at the state level. At the time of Jenkins' election only two members of both houses of the legislature were Republicans.
Jenkins faced five older opponents in his first race but walked door to door and was elected with 67 percent in the Democratic primary and was unopposed in the general election. (Louisiana's nonpartisan blanket primary was not enacted until 1975.) He was sworn in at the age of twenty-four, just a few days before he graduated from LSU Law School.
During his 28-year tenure in the Louisiana House from 1972 to 2000, Jenkins authored more than three hundred major bills that became law, including the Free Enterprise Education Act, which requires all high school students in Louisiana to complete a one-semester course on the free enterprise system; the Private Education Deregulation Act, which removed many regulations from private and Christian schools and legalized home schooling in the state. The Teacher Proficiency Act requires all new public school teachers in Louisiana to pass the National Teachers Examination; the TOPS scholarship program, under which more than 100,000 Louisiana students have been granted full college scholarships. Jenkins also sponsored the Concealed Carry Act and the Shoot the Burglar Act.
While in the legislature, Jenkins organized and served as chairman of the Conservative Caucus in the state house, which had begun with only four members in 1972. By 1980, a caucus member, John Hainkel of New Orleans, was elected House Speaker. Jenkins served as chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations.
In 1990, Jenkins helped to secure the override in the Louisiana House of Governor Buddy Roemer's veto of a ban on abortion, including cases of rape and incest and fines of up to $100,000 and ten years imprisonment on the practitioners. The legislation was authored by Democratic State Senator Mike Cross of Baker. Roemer declared the legislation incompatible with the United States Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. His veto alienated large numbers of his socially conservative electoral base. Though the House overrode the veto, the state Senate failed to do so. Jenkins argued that the prohibition regarding rape and incest is needed to prevent women from filing false claims in such matters. State Senator Sydney B. Nelson of Shreveport, however, announced his opposition to the abortion ban championed by Cross and Jenkins because of the problems of unwanted children and defective births. Nevertheless, in 1991, United States District Judge Adrian G. Duplantier of New Orleans, a former state senator, ruled that the measure was in conflict with Roe v. Wade.
State constitutional convention
Jenkins was elected as a delegate to Louisiana's state constitutional convention, which met from late 1972 to early 1974. His colleagues included fellow Representative R. Harmon Drew, Sr., future Governor Buddy Roemer and later Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner James H. "Jim" Brown. He served on the convention's Committee on Bill of Rights and Elections, and he authored much of the new constitution's Declaration of Rights. The proposed constitution was approved by the delegates and ratified by the voters in a statewide election held in April 1974. Formally adopted in 1975, the document is still in effect.
Other political ventures
When Republicans failed to field candidates for the United States Senate in 1978 against Democratic Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., and again in 1980 against Russell B. Long, Jenkins opposed both incuments, running as a Democrat. In 1978, Jenkins won twenty-eight parishes, but Johnston prevailed, 58-42 percent. In the 1980 race, Jenkins criticized Long's support of the Panama Canal Treaties. He said Long was "the most powerful man in the Senate, but he isn't using that power for us." Again, Jenkins lost, 59-41 percent. In both races, he was outspent by large margins, 5 to 1 in the Johnston race and 10 to 1 in the Long race. In the second of those campaigns, Republican Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, later his party's Majority Leader, made a campaign commercial for his friend Russell Long.
In 1972, Jenkins made an effort to promote the influence of conservative Democrats. He endorsed conservative Mayor Sam Yorty of Los Angeles, California, for the party's presidential nomination, but the choice fell upon U.S. Senator George S. McGovern of South Dakota. In 1976, he was elected as Louisiana's member of the Democratic National Platform Committee where he offered numerous conservative proposals during the meetings in Washington, D.C. He was the only member of the committee to vote against the final version of the platform.
In early 1980, Jenkins was elected Democratic National Committeeman from Louisiana over the opposition of then outgoing Governor Edwin Edwards, but Jenkins resigned that position in October 1980 to campaign for Ronald W. Reagan for president, while Edwards stood with President Jimmy Carter.
In 1981, Jenkins and later U.S. Representative Clyde C. Holloway of Rapides Parish, one of the four parishes that Jenkins had carried in his 1980 Senate race against Russell Long, spoke at a rally in Alexandria. There the two endorsed proposed constitutional amendments to halt forced busing for the purpose of desegregating public schools and to require the election, instead of presidential appointment and U.S. Senate confirmation, of U.S. judges. Jenkins told the rally:
What we need in America is a constitutional amendment against forced busing, and any American who says he is against busing and won't support a constitutional amendment is a liar.
In 1989, Jenkins joined a coalition of mostly supporters of Edwin Edwards to defeat a tax reform referendum designed by the Roemer administration to reduce sales taxes and state income taxes while raising property taxes. The successful opponents to the reform measure also included newly elected State Representative David Duke, former and later Speaker John Alario, and Victor Bussie, long-term president of the Louisiana AFL-CIO.
In 1994, after twenty-two years as a Democrat, Jenkins held a news conference with U.S. Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, a Democrat-turned-Republican, to announce his decision to change his party affiliation to Republican. Jenkins said that he felt conservatives no longer had any hope of influencing the direction of the Democratic Party.
1996 Senate campaign and aftermath
In 1996, Jenkins ran for the Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Bennett Johnston. Although five other Republicans ran against him in the nonpartisan blanket primary, Jenkins was endorsed as the party's "official" candidate at the Republican state convention. He also faced four Democrats and five independents. The field included Attorney General Richard Ieyoub, former Democratic state Treasurer Mary Landrieu of New Orleans, Congressman Jimmy Hayes (a recent convert to the GOP), former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke, and two wealthy businessmen, state Representative Chuck McMains of Baton Rouge and William "Bill" Linder of New Orleans, the brother of Republican U.S. Representative John Linder from Georgia.
U.S. Representative Bob Livingston of New Orleans led the party as it rallied behind Jenkins. Support also came from Edward J. Steimel, former executive director of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. Jenkins ran first in the primary with 27 percent of the vote. He and Landrieu then competed in the November general election. Former President George H. W. Bush came to campaign on Jenkins' behalf, along with Senators John S. McCain of Arizona, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, and Connie Mack, III, of Florida. Governor Foster and former Governors David C. Treen, Buddy Roemer, and the Democrat Jimmie Davis all endorsed Jenkins.
On Election Day, television network exit polls showed Jenkins leading, 51-49 percent. Jenkins' lead held up throughout the evening, but a late surge of votes from heavily Democratic New Orleans, as well as Bill Clinton's strong performance in the state, put Landrieu ahead by 5,788 votes out of 1.7 million cast.
It was the closest U.S. Senate race in the presidential election year of 1996, and one of the closest in Louisiana history. Jenkins carried thirty-eight parishes and exclusive of Orleans parish, he secured 53 percent of the vote. New Orleans gave Landrieu a 100,000 vote margin. The final returns showed Landrieu with 852,945 votes and Jenkins with 847,157 votes.
Jenkins led Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole by more than 134,000 votes statewide. Jenkins' vote total, as of 2004, was the third highest by a Republican running in a statewide race in Louisiana, topped since only by former Governor Foster and current U.S. Senator David Vitter.
After losing this election, Jenkins contested the results. He claimed that at least 7,454 "phantom votes" were cast in 4,000 precincts in the state in 1996. The so-called phantom votes were alleged to have occurred when more votes were cast on the voting machines than voters who signed up to vote in that precinct on election day. Jenkins also claimed that more than thirty thousand signatures of voters on election day did not match their signatures on voter registration cards. Claims were also made that individuals were hauled multiple times to various precincts in New Orleans to cast votes without being required to sign the register. The Jenkins forces alleged that buses drove through the inner city and offered payments to anyone who would vote. Moreover, they claimed that further investigations proved that about 1,300 votes were cast by voters whose registered addresses were abandoned public housing units.
Jenkins took his case to the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, claiming that Landrieu's 5,788-vote margin was made possible only by fraudulent votes in New Orleans. In a hearing before the Senate Rules Committee carried live on C-SPAN, Jenkins charged massive election fraud. He petitioned the Senate to unseat Landrieu and to order a new election—and on an 8-7 party-line vote the committee agreed to set up a probe.
Only a month into the probe, however, Democrats claimed that Thomas "Papa Bear" Miller, a detective hired by Jenkins' campaign to investigate claims of fraud, had coached witnesses to claim they had participated in election fraud. The Jenkins campaign denied the charge and declared it to be a Democratic attempt to distract attention from the massive vote-buying and election fraud they said had occurred in the election. Miller had several felony convictions on his record, including a guilty plea to attempted murder. Miller was killed in a drive- by shooting in May 2003. The Democrats walked out of the probe in protest, but the deliberations continued.
In October 1997, after a ten-month investigation, the committee allowed Landrieu's victory to stand. It concluded that while there were numerous irregularities, it was impossible to determine if they were egregious enough to change the outcome.
In 2004, Jenkins and Dan Richey, his long-term friend and former legislative colleague, helped to organize David Vitter's grassroots campaign, when Vitter, then a member of the U.S. House, became the first Republican elected from Louisiana to the United States Senate since Reconstruction.
1999 campaign for elections commissioner
In 1999, Jenkins ran for Commissioner of Elections against incumbent Democrat Jerry Fowler, whom Jenkins had alleged was part of the election fraud in 1996. Jenkins pledged to clean up elections in Louisiana and create a Voter Fraud Unit. In the primary, Jenkins ran first and fellow Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell finished in second place. Fowler ran third and was eliminated.
In the run-off between Jenkins and Terrell, the first statewide run-off between two Republicans in the history of Louisiana's open elections system, Terrell won handily. She took office and made many changes, including creation of a Voter Fraud Unit, which successfully prosecuted numerous cases of voter fraud.
In January 2000, Jenkins retired from the Louisiana House after twenty-eight years in office. In 2002, Suzanne Terrell was a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, matched against Landrieu, in a race that also included U.S. Representative John Cooksey of Monroe and State Representative Tony Perkins of Baton Rouge, Jenkins' 1996 campaign manager in the Senate race against Landrieu. Jenkins endorsed Perkins in the primary. In the runoff between Terrell and Landrieu, Jenkins endorsed Terrell, but Landrieu was elected to her second term.
U.S. House special election, 2008
On January 16, 2008, U.S. Representative Richard Hugh Baker, representing Louisiana's 6th congressional district, announced that he would soon resign from Congress. The political careers of Jenkins and Baker actually began on the same day thirty-four years earlier in 1972, when both were freshman Democratic members of the East Baton Rouge Parish state House delegation.
Baker vacted his congressional seat on February 2. As a result, Governor Bobby Jindal called a special election to fill the vacancy. The Republican and Democratic primaries, again closed primaries, were held on March 8 in conjunction with the presidential primaries, with the runoff, if needed, set for April 5, and the general election on May 3.
On January 17, 2008, Jenkins announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination in the special election. Jenkins received the endorsements of Pat Toomey's Club for Growth Political Action Committee, and Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. He also received the endorsement of the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party. Jenkins later received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.
In the primary, he faced Paul Sawyer, Baker's congressional aide, Laurinda L. Calongne, president of Robert Rose Consulting; and Michael Cloonan, a veteran of the United States Navy from East Feliciana Parish.
Jenkins led in public opinion polls prior to the primary but fell eighty-four votes short of an outright majority to win the GOP nomination. Calongne, with 7,584 ballots (25 percent), finished second and forced Jenkins, with 14,849 votes (just under 50 percent), into a runoff. Sawyer trailed with 6,924 (23 percent). Cloonan held the critical balance of 425 votes (1 percent).
In the April 5 Republican runoff against Calongne, Jenkins won handily, taking 15,179 (62 percent) of the vote to Calongne's 9,327 (38 percent) votes. He faced Democratic State Representative Don Cazayoux of New Roads in the special election. Jenkins was immediately endorsed by Governor Jindal.
In Congress, Senator David Vitter and the three Republicans in Louisiana's House delegation--Jim McCrery, Rodney Alexander, and Charles Boustany endorsed Jenkins. Jenkins was also supported by House Minority Leader John Boehner, Minority Whip Roy Blunt, and Assistant Whip Eric Cantor. On April 25, former U.S. Senator John Breaux, now a resident of Maryland, endorsed Cazayoux on grounds that the self-styled "John Breaux Democrat" could work across party lines. In 1996, Breaux had also opposed Jenkins in the race against Mary Landrieu.
Despite support from the state Republican establishment, some Republicans were cool toward Jenkins. Some considered him a second-tier candidate despite his long tenure in the state legislature, his near-victory in the Senate race a decade earlier, and support among social conservatives in the Louisiana GOP. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans, reportedly tied his financial aid to meeting certain financial benchmarks, an unusual obstacle considering that the GOP had held this seat since 1975. Additionally, Jenkins faced potential problems from a past indirect connection to David Duke. Before the 1996 Senate general election, Jenkins' campaign retained a firm to do automated phone calls to voters. The firm had previously done work for Duke. He was fined $3,000 by the Federal Election Commission because the purchase was paid for by his ad agency instead of directly by the campaign. Later Jenkins learned that Duke received a commission from the firm he had hired, but Jenkins insisted that he had no knowledge that Duke would profit from the transaction. However, his signed agreement with the FEC admitted that he knew Duke had used the same firm.
Cazayoux won the special election on May 3, 2008, with 49,702 votes (49.2 percent) to Jenkins' 46,741 votes (46.3 percent). An independent Republican candidate and two minor candidates held the remaining 4.5 percent of the vote. Jenkins ran best in the City of Central, where he received 77 percent of the votes cast, and Livingston Parish, a heavily Republican suburban parish near Baton Rouge, where he received 72 percent. However, Cazayoux won by almost 5,000 votes in Jenkins' own East Baton Rouge Parish.
Jenkins was expected to seek a rematch against Cazayoux in the election for the full term in Congress in the fall of 2008 but announced instead that he would support Republican state Senator Bill Cassidy, who unseated Cazayoux and still holds this seat but in 2014 is a United States Senate candidate against the still serving Mary Landrieu.
Jenkins served as CEO for WBTR-TV in Baton Rouge from 1987 to 2004. He was named to the LSU School of Journalism Hall of Fame in 1991; "Legislator of the Year" by the National Taxpayers Union, 1977, and Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, 1990; 96 percent rating, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry; recipient, Winston Churchill Award, Council for National Policy, 1990; producer, Baton Rouge Today, named "Outstanding Local News Program in the U.S." by Community Broadcasters Association, 1992; named "Louisiana's Pro-Family, Pro-Life Champion" by Christian Coalition of Louisiana for his service in the legislature; listed in Who's Who in America; B.A., Journalism, Juris Doctor, LSU.
Jenkins and Daniel Duggan started a community weekly newspaper called the Central City News in 2005. In 2006, they started the Zachary Post. In 2007, Duggan's company acquired the South Baton Rouge Journal. Jenkins served as editor of all three papers. In 2008, Duggan and Jenkins dissolved their partnership, with Duggan assuming ownership of the Zachary Post and Jenkins ownership of the Central City News. The South Baton Rouge Journal suspended publication. In 2012, Jenkins resumed the South Baton Rouge Journal under a new name, the Capital City News. In 2010, the Louisiana Press Association awarded the Central City News first place in the state for General Excellence and in 2011, the LPA awarded Jenkins its Freedom of Information Award.
On May 18, 2008, Jenkins was elected as Louisiana's representative on the Platform Committee at the Republican National Convention, which met in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 2012, he elected to a four-year term as Republican chairman for East Baton Rouge Parish.
In May 2012, small business owners in Baton Rouge formed the new Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge Parish. The group is an affiliate of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Jenkins was elected chairman of the group.
- "Doris Laverne Rowlett Jenkins". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
- Roemer vetoes abortion bill", Minden Press-Herald, July 27, 1990, p. 1
- "Abortion: Roemer vows veto, Jenkins, an override", Minden Press-Herald, June 28, 1990, p. 3
- Garry Boulard (July 8, 1990). "Abortion Bill Veto Override in Louisiana Fails". The Los Angeles Times (latimes.com). Retrieved October 16, 2009.
- See Jenkins, "Declaration of Rights", Loyola Law Review, Spring 1975
- "Hundreds rally in Alexandria", Minden Press-Herald, January 15, 1981, p. 1
- Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron And I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative, Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, pp. 255-256, ISBN 0-9700156-0-7
- Armbrister, Trevor. "They're Stealing the Election!" Reader's Digest. August 1997, p. 91
- Witness protection: One family's experience The Louisiana Weekly, May 26, 2003
- Carney, James (1997-07-07). "No Saints in New Orleans". Time. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
- "Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1880-2008". legis.state.la.us. Retrieved November 16, 2009.
- The Advocate: Washington Watch for January 21, 2008
- Club PAC Endorses Jenkins in LA-06
- Dr. Dobson Endorses Jenkins in LA-06
- Jenkins Endorsed by EBRP GOP
- Jenkins Endorsed by NRA
- The Advocate: Richard Baker to resign
- BusinessReport.com: Sixth District race: Kopplin in, Taylor out, Roemer undecided
- Two more candidates in 6th Congressional District; no change in 1st - New Orleans News - NOLA.com
- Dead Pelican polls
- Louisiana Secretary of State Unofficial Election Results Inquiry Results for Election Date: 2008-04-05
- Jindal Endorses Jenkins For 6th District Seat
- Jindal, Vitter, GOP Congressmen, Party: All Endorse Jenkins and Scalise
- 2theadvocate.com | Legislature & Politics | Breaux endorses Cazayoux — Baton Rouge, LA
- Davis, Susan (2008-04-07). "Democrats' Hopes Rise for House Seat". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-04-08.
- "David Duke’s name enters GOP race". Natchez Democrat. 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
- Conciliation agreement in Jenkins' FEC case
- The National Policy Council Biography
- Woody Jenkins Louisiana 6th Congressional District Official Website
- Central City News
- Zachary Post
- South Baton Rouge Journal
- The Big Sleazy: Politics in New Orleans, Louisiana.
- Woody Jenkins' second chance
|Louisiana State Representative from District 66 (East Baton Rouge Parish)
Louis Elwood "Woody" Jenkins