Billy Nungesser

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Not to be confused with William "Billy" Nungesser.
Billy Nungesser
Billy Nungesser - Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana.jpg
54th Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
Assumed office
January 11, 2016
Governor John Bel Edwards
Preceded by Jay Dardenne
President of Plaquemines Parish
In office
January 2, 2007 – January 5, 2015
Preceded by Benny Rousselle
Succeeded by Amos Cormier
Personal details
Born (1959-01-10) January 10, 1959 (age 57)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Cher Taffarro
Nungesser (standing center left) at 2007 Plaquedilla Parade

William Harold "Billy" Nungesser (born January 10, 1959), is an American politician, the 54th and current Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, since January 11, 2016.

A Republican, Nungesser is also the former president of the Plaquemines Parish Commission, having been re-elected to a second four-year term in the 2010 general election in which he topped two opponents with more than 71 percent of the vote.[1] His second term as parish president began on January 1, 2011,[2] and ended four years later.

Background[edit]

Nungesser is the son of the late William Aicklen "Billy" Nungesser and the former Ruth Amelia Marks (1932–2012). From 1980 to 1984, the senior Nungesser was the chief of staff during David C. Treen's term as governor of Louisiana. He was later the state chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, in which capacity he unexpectedly supported Patrick J. Buchanan for the party's 1992 presidential nomination.[3]

Ruth Nungesser was also active in Republican politics as a charter member of Republican Women of Louisiana and a delegate to state and national GOP conventions. Billy Nungesser has a younger brother, Eric H. Nungesser and wife Carole, and two sisters, Nancy A. Nungesser and Heidi N. Landry and husband Marlon.[4]

In 1983, Governor Treen appointed the younger Nungesser to the Lake Pontchartrain and Maurepaus Study Commission. The senior Nungesser was named in 1985 to the Orleans Levee Board.

While working in his family's offshore catering business, Nungesser found an alternative use for metal ship containers. In 1991, he established General Marine Leasing Company, a business which provides portable living quarters for offshore workers. The company grew to employ two hundred people and reaching $20 million in sales. In 2004, he was the chairman for the Plaquemines Parish United Way. In 2004 and 2005, Nungesser worked with local business leaders to form the Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry or PABI, separate from the statewide Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. He served on the PABI board during its early years.

Since vacating the parish presidency, Nungesser has relocated to River Ranch in Lafayette Parish. He announced his second bid for the office of lieutenant governor. He lost the race in 2011 to incumbent Jay Dardenne, who subsequently ran unsuccessfully in 2015 for governor of Louisiana,[5] a post subsequently won in the general election by a Democrat, John Bel Edwards of Tangipahoa Parish.

Parish President[edit]

First term[edit]

In 2006, Nungesser narrowly won the position of parish president by defeating the then Democrat Amos Cormier, Jr. Nungesser polled 4,096 votes (51.1 percent) to Cormier's 3,920 ballots (48.9 percent).[6] The then incumbent parish president and a former state representative, Democrat Benny Rousselle, was term-limited.

In February 2009, Governor Bobby Jindal appointed Nungesser to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, a 20-member panel assigned to develop a master plan on coastal protection for the state.

Much of his work in the first two years has been on hurricane recovery. The eye of Katrina passed over Buras-Triumph, and now the town of Buras has a new water tower. The old tower was knocked to the ground during the hurricane.[7]

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) originally obligated $400,000 to rebuild the Port Eads Marina after Katrina. President Nungesser personally went to Washington, D.C., and appealed the amount. FEMA then authorized $12 million for the project.[8] He was heavily involved in the response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

2008 hurricanes[edit]

Before Hurricane Gustav made landfall, President Nungesser took a proactive approach to protect the parish. He flew in a helicopter counting the number of vessels and barges that potentially would be a safety issue to people, property, and the levee system during a hurricane. His team called the owners of about 150 vessels and told them to move the vessels or the parish would sink them. Seventy of the 150 were sunk, some by the parish, some by the owners. There is no way to measure how much damage was prevented by this action.[9]

Hurricane Ike passed hundreds of miles south of Plaquemines, but its tide surge did affect the parish. The water began rising against the levees on the east bank of Plaquemines near the Caernarvon freshwater diversion at Braithwaite. The structure allows fresh water from the Mississippi River to flow into the marsh on the east side of the river. Parish officials noticed the water in the river was not rising at the same rate. After consulting the Army Corps of Engineers, a quick decision was made to open the floodgates to permit the rising water flow into the Mississippi, hence relieving pressure on the levees.[10]

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill[edit]

Nungesser made countless media appearances in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including almost nightly guest appearances on the Cable News Network alongside journalist Anderson Cooper.[11] Nungesser was recognized as the Face of the Oil Spill by major media outlets such as the New Orleans Times-Picayune,[12] The New York Times,[13] Associated Press,[14] CNN,[15] Reuters,[16] and ABC News.[17]

Plaquemines Parish consists of the final stretch of the Mississippi River before it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Katrina first made landfall in the southern end of Plaquemines Parish in the town of Empire, Louisiana.

Second term[edit]

In 2010, Nungesser won re-election to parish president, having defeated former parish presidents Amos Cormier and Benny Rousselle. Nungesser polled 5,632 votes (71 percent) to Cormier's 1,772 (22 percent) and Rousselle's 499 (6 percent).[1] He began his second term with a public cry for help in removing oil from eroded land at Bay Jimmy.[18]

Nungesser offered a long-term plan to protect residents, business and the parish from future storms. He collaborated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, Mississippi, to create the Plaquemines Restoration and Protection Plan, released in 2009. The plan uses multiple lines of defense along with the levee system to protect the parish from future tropical systems. "If Plaquemines Parish is going to get better hurricane protection, then it’s going to need more than levees," Nungesser told the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate.[19]

In 2014, Amos Cormier, Jr., switched parties and won the election to succeed Nungesser as parish president, who was term-limited. In a runoff election on December 6, 2014, Cormier defeated fellow Republican Jerry Hodnett, 4,315 votes (56.4 percent) to 3,333 (43.6 percent).[20]

Lieutenant Governor[edit]

2011 race[edit]

Nungesser in 2011

In 2011, Nungesser waged an unsuccessful race to unseat Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, a fellow Republican who had formerly served as a state senator from Baton Rouge and as Louisiana secretary of state. Dardenne had been initially elected for a one-year unexpired term in 2010. Dardenne received 504,228 votes (53.1 percent) to Nungesser's 444,750 (46.9 percent). Nungesser defeated Dardenne in seventeen parishes, all in south Louisiana, including Orleans, Iberia, Jefferson, Lafayette, and St. Bernard, as well as Plaquemines Parish, his former residence.[21]

2015 election[edit]

Nungesser ran again for lieutenant governor in 2015, this time successfully. Jay Dardenne did not seek reelection but ran instead for governor and finished fourth in the primary for that office. Nungesser claimed that his business and political experience made him ideal to manage the state tourism industry, the principal function of the office. His sentimental political advertisements used background music from the song "You Are My Sunshine" by the late Democratic Governor Jimmie Davis.

Nungesser ran second in the primary election with 324,654 votes (30 percent) and faced Kip Holden, the African-American Democratic Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish, who led the four-candidate field with 360,679 votes (33.3 percent). In a strong third-place was John Young, the president of Jefferson Parish, who received 313,183 votes (28.9 percent). Departing African-American Republican State Senator Elbert Guillory of Opelousas ran last with 85,460 votes (7.9 percent).[22]

In the 2015 general election Nungesser prevailed, 628,864 votes (55.38 percent) to Holden's 506,578 (44.62 percent). Democrat John Bel Edwards won the gubernatorial race over Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter.[23] Edwards and Nungesser, of opposite parties, assumed office on January 11, 2016.

As lieutenant governor[edit]

Shortly after taking office, Lieutenant Governor Nungesser named Robert J. Barham of Morehouse Parish, the former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries under former Governor Jindal as the new director of state parks and historic sites. Nungesser became acquainted with Barham when the two worked closely together in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.[24]

Nungesser's communications director, Kriss Fairbairn Fortunato (born September 1963) of Jefferson Parish, quit her position after three months of service in April 2016 because, in her words, "It was not a comfortable environment and not a good fit" because she was returning full-time to her private communications company. Fortunato left Nungesser's office a week before The Baton Rouge Advocate published a story about how Nungesser and state Republican chairman Roger Villere had attempted to negotiate an unusual oil trade deal with Iraq. Nungesser signed letters in the negotiations invoking the name of Governor John Bel Edwards but never informed Edwards of the idea which he and Villere were promoting.[25]

In July 2016, Nungesser commented about allegations of abuse of early voting in Louisiana. His remarks drew a quick rebuke from Secretary of State Tom Schedler, a fellow Republican, who called Nungesser

at a minimum uninformed. [He] quite possibly [made] an insult to not only my office, but also our hard-working clerks of court and registrars of voters who are our trusted partners for every election.

Lieutenant Governor Nungesser implied that voters can show up by the busload at any early voting site, even if they are not registered, sign a sheet of paper and have their vote count. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth, and in practice, his claim is impossible to execute. ...

If [the person is] not a registered voter, the process for voting on a machine does not move forward. Louisiana does allow for provisional voting in federal elections, which allows voters to cast a conditional paper ballot if questions arise as to their eligibility. But make no mistake, by law, these votes are not counted until the voter is proven to be eligible, not before." [26]

Nungesser said his comments were taken out of context because he was referring to a local election in Plaquemines Parish in 2005. He said that he admires how Schedler handles the office of secretary of state.[26]

Electoral history[edit]

Plaquemines Parish President Election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Billy Nungesser 4,096 51
Democratic Amos Cormier, Jr. (inc.) 3,920 49
Plaquemines Parish President Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Billy Nungesser (inc.) 5,632 71
Democratic Amos Cormier, Jr. 1,772 22
Independent Benny Rousselle 499 6
Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Election, 2011
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jay Dardenne (inc.) 504,451 53
Republican Billy Nungesser 445,049 47
Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Election, 2015
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Melvin "Kip" Holden 361,092 33
Republican Billy Nungesser 324,849 30
Republican John Young 313,364 29
Republican Elbert Lee Guillory 85,520 8
Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Runoff Election, 2015
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Billy Nungesser 628,876 55
Democratic Melvin "Kip" Holden 506,640 45

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "West Bank News". nola.com. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Official known for criticizing BP, feds re-elected". Fox News. October 2, 2010. 
  3. ^ Timothy Stanley, The Crusader: The Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchanan (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2012), p. 178; ISBN 978-0-312-58174-9
  4. ^ "Ruth Amelia Marks Nungesser". New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved September 5, 2012. 
  5. ^ The Moon Griffon Show, March 6, 2015
  6. ^ "Election returns, November 7, 2006". sos.louisiana.gov. Retrieved October 9, 2009. 
  7. ^ "Buras-Triumph, LA : Buras Water Tower After Hurricane Katrina photo, picture, image (Louisiana) at city-data.com". city-data.com. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  8. ^ "News – The Advocate — Baton Rouge, Louisiana". 2theadvocate.com. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  9. ^ http://www.wwltv.com/topstories/stories/wwl091608mlplaq.82dc39c1.html
  10. ^ "News – The Advocate — Baton Rouge, Louisiana". 2theadvocate.com. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  11. ^ "CNN's Anderson Cooper is back in New Orleans to cover yet another disaster: the oil spill". NOLA.com. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser becomes the face of oil spill frustration". NOLA.com. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  13. ^ Robertson, Campbell (May 31, 2010). "Louisianan Becomes Face of Anger on Spill". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ Goldstein, Katherine (June 29, 2010). "Billy Nungesser: The Face Of Gulf Oil Spill Anger". Huffington Post. 
  15. ^ "Louisiana politician becomes face of grassroots clean-up efforts". CNN. June 3, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Yahoo News UK". Yahoo News UK. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  17. ^ ABC News. "Person of the Week: Billy Nungesser". ABC News. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Nungesser To Coast Guard: 'This Is Bulls*!t'". WDSU. November 18, 2015. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  19. ^ The Baton Rouge Advocate, November 22, 2015
  20. ^ "General election returns". Louisiana Secretary of State. December 6, 2014. Retrieved March 6, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Louisiana primary election returns, October 22, 2011". staticresults.sos.la.gov. Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Results for Election Date: 10/24/2015". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved October 25, 2015. 
  23. ^ "Results for Election Date: 11/21/2015". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved November 29, 2015. 
  24. ^ Greg Hilburn (January 26, 2016). "Nungesser taps former LDWF secretary to lead state parks". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved January 27, 2016. 
  25. ^ Rebekah Allen (April 15, 2016). "Spokeswoman for Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser quits because "it was not a comfortable environment"". blogs.theadvocate.com. Retrieved April 16, 2016. 
  26. ^ a b Bonnie Bolden (July 12, 2016). "Schedler: Nungesser got it wrong". The Monroe News-Star. Retrieved July 13, 2016. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Benny Rousselle
President of Plaquemines Parish
2007–2015
Succeeded by
Amos Cormier
Preceded by
Jay Dardenne
Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
2016–present
Incumbent