Woody Jenkins

Louis “Woody” Jenkins (born January 3, 1947) is a newspaper editor in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  He is editor of Liberty Today, a national newspaper, and of the Central City News, a community newspaper in the City of Central, Louisiana.  He served as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1972–2000.  He was a delegate to Louisiana’s state Constitutional Convention from 1972-1974 and authored much of the Declaration of Rights in the current Louisiana Constitution.  As the Republican nominee for the United States Senate from Louisiana in 1996, he received 847,000 votes, the 2nd highest vote total for a Republican candidate in Louisiana history to that date.  However, he lost to Mary Landrieu in the closest Senate election in the nation.  For results, go to http://electionresults.sos.louisiana.gov/graphical/ and view the election on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 1996 (Congressional races).  The election was marked by allegations of vote fraud against the Democratic machine in New Orleans and was not decided by the United States Senate until October 1997.  Jenkins holds a B.A. in journalism and Juris Doctor in law from LSU.  He has been a journalist since 1964, serving as a radio newsman, TV announcer, TV station general manager, and newspaper editor.  Jenkins has been married for the past 43 years to Diane Aker Jenkins, an attorney who in 1986 was named by USA Today newspaper as one of the Ten Most Valuable People in America.  They have four children.

Early years, education, and professional

Jenkins was born in Baton Rouge, and attended Istrouma High School, where he served as student body president and was valedictorian. While in high school, Jenkins 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 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 B. A. degree in journalism from LSU in 1969 and a Juris Doctor degree from the LSU Law School, where was a member of the Law Review, in 1972.

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 1st place as the Best Community News Program in the U.S. from the Community Broadcasters Association. The Central City News has won more than 20 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 was inducted into the LSU Journalism School Hall of Fame.

Legislative career

Jenkins had been a Young Republican since high school. At seventeen, he had been a page for State Reps. Morley A. Hudson and Taylor W. O’Hearn, who were the first Republicans elected to the state legislature 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 to the state House, 104 of 105 members of the chamber and 38 of 39 members of the state Senate, elected in 1968, were Democrats. Jenkins faced five older opponents in his first race but walked door to door and was elected with 67 percent in the Democratic primary. He was unopposed in the general election. (Louisiana’s open primary was not enacted until 1975.) He was sworn in at the age of twenty-four, just a few days before he graduated from law school.

During 28 years in the Louisiana House of Representatives (1972 to 2000), Jenkins authored more than 300 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 deregulated private and Christian schools and legalized home schooling in Louisiana; the Teacher Proficiency Act, which requires all new public school teachers in Louisiana to pass the National Teachers Exam; the TOPS scholarship program, under which more than 100,000 Louisiana students have been granted full college scholarships; the Concealed Carry Act; the Shoot the Burglar Act, and many others.

While in the legislature, Jenkins organized and served as Chairman of the Conservative Caucus in the state house, which began with four members in 1972. By 1980, a caucus member, John Hainkel of New Orleans, was elected  Speaker of the House. Jenkins served as chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations.

Jenkins was elected as a delegate to Louisiana’s state constitutional convention, which met from late 1972 to early 1974. His colleagues included future Gov. Buddy Roemer, future Federal Court of Appeal Judge Jim Dennis, state Supreme Court justice Al Tate, 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 state wide election held in April 1974. The document, formally adopted in 1975, is still in effect. See Jenkins, Declaration of Rights, Loyola Law Review, Spring 1975.

When Republicans failed to run candidates for the United States Senate in 1978 against Democratic Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., and again in 1980 against established Senator Russell B. Long, Jenkins ran as a Democrat. In 1978, Jenkins won 38 parishes, but Johnston won by 58-42 percent. In the 1980 race, Jenkins criticized Long’s support of the Panama Canal Treaty. 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 made a campaign commercial for his friend Russell Long.  Dole and Jenkins later campaigned together in 1996 when Dole for the Republican nominee for President and Jenkins was the Republican nominee for U. S. Senator from Louisiana.

While a Democrat, Jenkins made an effort to promote the influence of conservative Democrats. In 1972, he endorsed maverick Los Angeles  mayor Sam Yorty for the party’s presidential nomination. In 1976, he was elected as Louisiana’s member of the Democratic National Platform Committee where he offered numerous conservative proposals during the committee’s meetings in Washington. He was the only member of the Platform 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 Reagan for president, while Edwards stood with President Jimmy Carter.

In 1989, Jenkins worked to defeat a tax reform referendum designed by the Buddy Roemer administration to raise taxes.

In 1994, after 22 years as a Democrat, Jenkins held a news conference with Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, also 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.

U. S. Senate campaign of 1996 and aftermath

In 1996, Jenkins ran for the Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Bennett Johnston. Jenkins won the Republican nomination at the State GOP Convention in January 1996 but still faced five other Republicans who ran in the open primary. 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 businessman William “Bill” Linder of New Orleans.

Republicans rallied around Jenkins. Congressman Bob Livingston of New Orleans led the effort. Support also came from Edward J. Steimel, former executive director of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.  Ieyoub and Landrieu had been predicted to make the runoff, but Jenkins ran first in the primary with 27 percent of the vote.

The results for the Sept. 21, 1996, open primary for United States Senate were:

Rep. Louis (Woody) Jenkins (R) – 322,244 – 26%

Treasurer Mary Landrieu (D) – 264,268 – 22%

Attorney General Richard Ieyoub (D) – 250,682 – 20%

David Duke (R) – 141,489 – 12%

Congressman Jimmy Hayes (R) – 71,699 0 6%

Bill Linder (R) – 58,243 – 5%

Rep. Chuck McMains (R) – 45,156 – 4%

New Orleans City Councilwoman Peggy Wilson (R) – 31,877 – 3%

Troyce Guice (D) 15,277 – 1%

Nick Accardo (other) – 10,072 – 1%

Jim Nichols (other) – 7,894 – 1%

Total votes cast – 1,228,596


Jenkins 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 McCain of Arizona, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Majority Leader Trent Lott, and Connie Mack III. Governor Foster and former Governors David C. TreenBuddy Roemer, and the Democrat Jimmie Davis all endorsed Jenkins.

Jenkins, the Republican nominee, and Landrieu, the Democrat, epitomized the conservative and liberal philosophies, although Landrieu tried to move to the center.  They participated in three nationally televised debates on C-SPAN.  To view the Oct. 31, 1996, debate between Jenkins and Landrieu, CLICK HERE.

On Election Day, TV 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 had a 95,000 lead at 12 midnight.  Then the New Orleans precincts poured in. New Orleans gave Landrieu a 100,000 vote margin. The final returns showed Landrieu with 852,945 votes and Jenkins with 847,157 votes.

The results for the Nov. 5, 1996, general election for United States Senate were:

Mary Landrieu (D) – 852,945

Louis (Woody) Jenkins (R) – 847,157

Jenkins led Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole by more than 134,000 votes state wide.

Jenkins’ vote total, as of 2004, was the third highest by a Louisiana Republican running in a statewide race, topped only by former Governor Foster and current U.S. Senator David Vitter.

After losing this election, Jenkins contested the results.[2] 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 30,000 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 mostly 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.  To view the committee hearing, CLICK HERE.

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 said it was a Democratic attempt to distract attention from the massive vote-buying and election fraud they said 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.[3] The Democrats walked out of the probe in protest, but the probe continued.[4]

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 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.

Later developments

In January 2000, Jenkins retired from the Louisiana House after 28t years in office. In 2002, Mrs. Terrell was a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, matched against Landrieu, in a race that also included state Representative Tony Perkins, Jenkins’ 1996 campaign manager. Jenkins endorsed Perkins in the primary. In the runoff between Terrell and Landrieu, Jenkins endorsed Terrell, but Landrieu was elected to her second term.

Jenkins and Dan Richey, his long-term friend and former legislative colleague, helped to organize David Vitter‘s grassroots campaign in 2004, when Vitter became the first Republican elected to the United States Senate from Louisiana since Reconstruction.

In private life, Jenkins has been active in efforts to assist refugees and poor people in Latin America. Jenkins has taken more than 60 trips to Latin America to coordinate disaster assistance or for mission work.

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. in Journalism, LSU, and Juris Doctor, LSU Law School.

Jenkins and Daniel Duggan started the Central City News in 2005. In 2006, they started the Zachary Post. In 2006, Jenkins was honored by the National Newspaper Association with 3rd Place for Best Newspaper Column. In 2010, the Louisiana Press Association awarded the Central City News 1st Place in the state for General Excellence.  In 2011, the Louisiana Press Association awarded the Central City News the organizations’ coveted Freedom of Information Award.

U.S. House special election in Louisiana’s 6th District (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 34 years earlier in 1972, when both were freshman Democratic members of the Louisiana House of Representatives from East Baton Rouge Parish.[5] Baker resigned his congressional seat on February 2. As a result, Governor Bobby Jindal called a special election to fill the vacancy. The Republican and Democratic parties held closed primaries on March 8 in conjunction with the presidential primaries.  The runoff, if needed, was set for April 5, and the general election on May 3.

On January 17, 2008, Jenkins announced his candidacy[6] for the GOP nomination in the special election. Jenkins received the endorsements of Pat Toomey‘s Club for Growth Political Action Committee,[7] and Dr. James Dobson,[8] founder of Focus on the Family. He also received the endorsement of the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party.[9] Jenkins later received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.[10]

In the primary, he faced Baker’s congressional aide, Paul Sawyer;[11] Laurinda L. Calongne, president of Robert Rose Consulting;[12] and Michael Cloonan, a veteran of the United States Navy from East Feliciana Parish.[13]

Jenkins led in public opinion polls prior to the primary, but fell 84 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 received 425 votes (1 percent).[14]

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.[15] He faced Democratic State Representative Don Cazayoux of New Roads and an “independent” Republican, Ashley Casey, in the special election. Jenkins was immediately endorsed by Governor Jindal.[16]

In Congress, Senator David Vitter and the three Republicans in Louisiana’s House delegation — Jim McCreryRodney Alexander, and Charles Boustany — endorsed Jenkins.[17] 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.[18]

Cazayoux won the special election on May 3, 2008, with 49,702 votes (49.2 percent) to Jenkins’ 46,741 votes (46.3 percent). The independent Republican candidate received 3,718, or four percent, and two minor candidates received 850 votes. 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.

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.

On Sunday, May 18, 2008, Jenkins was elected as Louisiana’s representative on the Platform Committee at the Republican National Convention.  To view Jenkins’ debates in the Platform Committee, CLICK HERE

See also


  1. ^ Ron GomezMy Name Is Ron And I’m a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State RepresentativeLafayetteLouisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, pp. 255-256, ISBN 0-9700156-0-7
  2. ^ Armbrister, Trevor. “They’re Stealing the Election!” Reader’s Digest. August 1997, p. 91
  3. ^ Witness protection: One family’s experience The Louisiana Weekly, May 26, 2003
  4. ^ Carney, James (1997-07-07). “No Saints in New Orleans”Time. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
  5. ^ “Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1880-2008”. legis.state.la.us. Retrieved November 16, 2009.
  6. ^ The Advocate: Washington Watch for January 21, 2008
  7. ^ Club PAC Endorses Jenkins in LA-06
  8. ^ Dr. Dobson Endorses Jenkins in LA-06
  9. ^ Jenkins Endorsed by EBRP GOP
  10. ^ Jenkins Endorsed by NRA
  11. ^ The Advocate: Richard Baker to resign
  12. ^ BusinessReport.com: Sixth District race: Kopplin in, Taylor out, Roemer undecided
  13. ^ Two more candidates in 6th Congressional District; no change in 1st – New Orleans News – NOLA.com
  14. ^ Dead Pelican polls
  15. ^ Louisiana Secretary of State Unofficial Election Results Inquiry Results for Election Date: 2008-04-05
  16. ^ Jindal Endorses Jenkins For 6th District Seat
  17. ^ Jindal, Vitter, GOP Congressmen, Party: All Endorse Jenkins and Scalise
  18. ^ 2theadvocate.com | Legislature & Politics | Breaux endorses Cazayoux — Baton Rouge, LA

  19. External links
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