It’s not certain this singular act of courage cost Roemer the election. It’s not even certain he would’ve lost if things had been fair and square. Leach would spend most of his one term in Congress fighting off allegations he bought the election by handing out five-dollar bills to voters in his base – the southern part of the district.
By the time 1980 rolled around, voters were seeing the wisdom of the choices Roemer had made. They voted out Jimmy Carter and voted in Ronald Reagan, who campaigned on the same themes.
In 1987, Roemer joined a long list of Democrats who wanted to challenge sitting Gov. Edwin Edwards for the governorship. Roemer, whose father had served as Edwards’ right-hand man before taking a fall for the governor and going to prison, again set himself apart with remarks at a debate. All the candidates were asked if they would support Edwards – then under federal indictment himself – were Edwards to win the primary. The others hedged. Roemer said no; we had to slay the dragon. The next day, the others were left to explain their remarks; Roemer was off having Slay the Dragon buttons printed.
Would Roemer make a good president? We’ll never know. Sadly, it’s impossible to win now if you don’t accept donations of more than $100. On top of that, his record as governor of Louisiana is uneven – a burst of early reforms, including elimination of a $1.3 billion deficit he inherited from Edwards, followed by discord with the legislature and eventual dysfunction in both his personal and professional life.
On top of that, he has been out of the scene for 20 years and widely viewed as an eccentric candidate.
But at a time when even supposedly conservative leaders in Congress fail to adhere to simple standards, when they give way on the first federal budget resolution, then on the the debt-ceiling increase and again, it now appears, on a continuing resolution to keep the government operating into the new year, Roemer’s candor and adherence to principles seems refreshing.
And by the way, they eventually did build the port of Shreveport. And it has been largely a bust.
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