John S. Treen

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John Speir Treen

(1926-02-05) February 5, 1926 (age 90)
Baton Rouge
East Baton Rouge Parish

Louisiana, USA
Residence Metairie, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
Occupation Retired homebuilder
Political party

Republican candidate for:
(1) Louisiana State Senate, 1972

(2) Louisiana House of Representatives, 1989
Spouse(s) Martha Ann Swayze Treen

John S. Treen, Jr.
Ben Marcus Treen
Betsy T. Anderson

Georgia T. Cole
Parent(s) Joseph Paul and Elizabeth Speir Treen

John Speir Treen (born February 5, 1926) is a retired homebuilder from Metairie in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, who lost a 1989 special election for the Louisiana House of Representatives to the former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke. Treen is the older brother of David C. Treen, the first Republican governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction, whose last residence was in Mandeville in St. Tammany Parish.


John Treen was born in Baton Rouge to Joseph Paul Treen, Sr. (1900–1986) and the former Elizabeth Speir (1899–1990).[1] He had a second brother, Paul Treen, Jr. He is married to the former Martha Ann Swayze (born 1928).[2] Treen has two sons, John S. Treen, Jr., (born 1954) of Metairie, and Ben Marcus Treen (born 1956) of Greenville, South Carolina.[3] and two daughters, Betsy T. Anderson of Cypress, Texas, and Georgia T. Cole of Spartambirg, South Carolina.

Political life[edit]

Like his brother Dave Treen, John Treen has long been active in the Louisiana Republican Party. While Dave Treen an for governor on February 1, 1972, in the first of three campaigns for the state's highest office, John Treen in that same election contested a Louisiana State Senate seat in Jefferson Parish. He lost by 973 votes to the Democrat M. Joseph Tiemann, 16,153 (51.6 percent) to 15,180 (48. percent.)[4]

Considered a particularly observant political commentator, Treen coined the expression: "All things being equal, Cajuns vote for Cajuns."[5]In most statewide and congressional races since 1972 in Louisiana, the candidate from Acadiana, regardless of party, has won statewide and district elections. An exception to that rule came in 1987 when the Democrat Buddy Roemer, who defected to Republican in 1991, won without a general election when his Cajun intraparty rival, Governor Edwin Edwards, withdrew. Another exception occurred in 2004, when Republican David Vitter defeated Democrat Chris John. Both were then U.S. representatives.[5]

Treen v. Duke[edit]

In late 1988, Republican State Representative Charles Cusimano resigned from the Louisiana House (District 81) after eight years to accept a position as a 24th Judicial District Court judge. In the special election, the candidates included Treen, Duke, Republican school board member Delton Charles, Democratic real estate agent D.J. "Bud" Olister (backed by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee), and Roger F. Villere, Jr., a young businessman from Metairie who was named the Republican state chairman in 2004. Duke finished first in the primary with 3,995 votes (33.1 percent).[6] Because no candidate received a majority in the first round, a runoff was required between Duke and Treen, who polled 2,277 votes (18.9 percent) in the first round of balloting.[7]

David Vitter, then a young Republican attorney, would have entered the special election had he met the residency requirement. Ironically, Vitter would become the representative for District 81 in 1992 and then win election to the United States House of Representatives.."[8]

Ron Gomez, then a member of the Louisiana House from Lafayette, observed the District 81 special election:

"John Treen was not a very dynamic campaigner, and he was not very well liked by the political insiders in Jefferson Parish. ... Harry Lee was quoted as saying the runoff election was 'a choice between a bigot and an asshole.' During the few head-to-head public forums Treen's advisors allowed, John wilted under the relative eloquence of Duke.[9]

John Treen's candidacy was endorsed by U.S. President George H. W. Bush, former President Ronald W. Reagan, and other notable Republicans such as the political activist Beth Rickey.[10] Treen also drew the backing of the Chamber of Commerce, the New Orleans Times-Picayune,[11] the Democrat Victor Bussie (president of the Louisiana AFL-CIO), and Edward J. Steimel (president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry). Duke, however, hammered Treen on a statement that Treen had made indicating a willingness to entertain higher property taxes if so determined by the voters, an unpopular stance in the suburban district. Moreover, the third-place candidate, Delton Charles, did little to help Treen in the contest with Duke.[12]

With 8,459 votes (50.7 percent), Duke narrowly defeated Treen, who polled 8,232 votes (49.3 percent).[13] Duke served in the House from 1990 until 1992, his only public office.[14] The turnout was a relatively high 54 percent for a showdown election.[9] Though Duke had left the Klan in 1979, his presence in Louisiana Republican circles in the 1990s created much havoc for the party and may have delayed its advancement to near parity with the Democrats, which developed by the early years of the 21st century.

John Treen, meanwhile, decided to challenge the election on grounds that Duke had lived two blocks outside district lines prior to filing his candidacy papers. Because Treen did not file his challenge within ten days of qualifying, Duke was considered a bona fide resident of District 81. Treen's suit was tossed out of court by Judge Clarence McManus.[15]

David Treen also faced Duke, who became a perennial candidate over the years, in a special election for the United States House in 1999, triggered by the resignation of Republican Representative Bob Livingston from Louisiana's 1st congressional district. Neither Treen nor Duke emerged victorious. The election went to then state Representative David Vitter. Ironically, Duke endorsed David Treen in Treen's close runoff election with Vitter. The 1999 contest was the last time either David Treen or David Duke appeared on a Louisiana ballot. In that election, John Treen said of his brother: "Dave has a reputation for absolute honesty and integrity. That was one of his trademarks."[16]

Other political notes[edit]

John Treen was an alternate delegate to the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida, which renominated the Nixon/Agnew ticket. He was a delegate to the 1988 Republican National Convention held in New Orleans, which nominated the Bush-Quayle ticket.[17]

In 2004, John Treen refused to endorse David Vitter in the U.S. Senate election. Treen said that he "doesn't give a damn" what Vitter thinks of him. He said that his opposition to Vitter is that "I don't like liars." John Treen, however, did not specifically endorse Vitter's opponent, Chris John.[18] On Dave Treen's death in 2009, however, Vitter delivered a moving eulogy to the former governor.[19]

On March 24, 2012, Treen was handily defeated in a race for the District 81 seat on the Republican State Central Committee. He lost that race to Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, 447 (63.3 percent) to 259 (36.7 percent).[20]


  1. ^ "Social Security Death Index". Retrieved November 1, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Gov. David Conner Treen". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. Retrieved November 1, 2009. 
  3. ^ People Search & Background Check
  4. ^ Louisiana Secretary of State, General election returns, February 1, 1972
  5. ^ a b "Gen. [Russel] Honeré considering run for Senate". Retrieved November 11, 2009. 
  6. ^ "1989 Louisiana State Representative Election". Retrieved November 11, 2009. 
  7. ^ Michael Zatarain, David Duke: Evolution of a Klansman (Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishers, 1990), ISBN 0-88289-817-5, ISBN 978-0-88289-817-9.
  8. ^ Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron And I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative, Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, p. 222, ISBN=0-9700156-0-7
  9. ^ a b Ron Gomez, p. 223
  10. ^ "GOP Condemns Duke" Newsday, Long Island, New York, February 25, 1989. pg. 9
  11. ^ "Ex-Klan Chief Places First in Louisiana Primary". The New York Times, January 23, 1989. January 23, 1989. Retrieved November 11, 2009. 
  12. ^ Douglas D. Rose, The Emergence of David Duke and the Politics of Race (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992), p. iii (ISBN 0807843814)
  13. ^ "John S. Treen". Retrieved November 11, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Membership of the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812-2008" (PDF). Retrieved November 8, 2009. 
  15. ^ Ron Gomez, pp. 224-226
  16. ^ ""There Is a House in New Orleans", November 11, 2009". Retrieved November 11, 2009. 
  17. ^ "Index to Politicians". political Retrieved November 11, 2009. 
  18. ^ "There Is a House in New Orleans, October 29, 2004". Retrieved November 11, 2009. 
  19. ^ "DebbieGlover, "Treen honored as father of LA GOP"". Slidell Sentry, Slidell, Louisiana. Retrieved November 6, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Results for Election Date: 3/24/2012". Retrieved January 27, 2014.