| Robert Emmet "Rob" Couhig, Jr.|
|Political party||Democrat-turned-Republican (1976)|
|Born|| April 20, 1949 |
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
|Spouse|| (1) Divorced from Susan Mullins Couhig
(2) Michelle "Missy" Aleman (married 2003)
Robert Emmet Couhig, Jr., known as Rob Couhig (born April 20, 1949), is an attorney, businessman, entrepreneur, Republican political activist, and a former radio talk show host from his native New Orleans, Louisiana. His last political foray was into the 2010 mayoral election in New Orleans.
A former partner of the Adams and Reese law firm, Couhig now leads Couhig Partners. He has twice been a candidate for the United States House of Representatives. A persistent Republican in a heavily Democratic city, he was defeated in a race for mayor of New Orleans in the spring of 2006 by the incumbent, Ray Nagin. He is also known for bringing the minor league baseball team, the Zephyrs, to New Orleans.
Couhig was born at Ochsner Baptist Medical Center to Robert Emmet "Bob" Couhig, Sr. (1916-2014), and the former Marcelle "Nootsie" Reese (1916-1985). His mother's brother, Couhig's uncle, was George Reese, a pioneer in the establishment of a viable Republican Party in Louisiana. The senior Couhig after World War II came to New Orleans from Massachusetts. He was hired by the Orkin Company to manage two area pest-control offices and became the top executive of a four-state territory. In that position, he moved the Orkin central office from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. In the mid-1960s, Rollins Environmental Services, Inc., bought Orkin and transferred Couhig to its office in Atlanta, Georgia. After a year-long relocation to Georgia, Couhig left the company and moved his family to St. Francisville in West Feliciana Parish north of Baton Rouge.
There, Bob and Marcelle Couhig were pioneers in the promotion of tourism in both West and East Feliciana parishes. In 1962, they opened Fairview Plantation, a restaurant and gift shop in an historic home in West Feliciana Parish. After Fairview burned, they established in 1966 in Jackson, Louisiana, the Asphodel Village, one of the first bed and breakfasts in the state. The Couhigs lived in one part of Asphodel Plantation and until the later 1980s operated a restaurant and gift shop in the other part of the house. Marcelle in 1980 published the popular Asphodel Plantation Cookbook with regional specialties. In 1967, the senior Couhig formed his own Couhig Pestaway Company, based in Baton Rouge, which he operated until he was in his middle eighties.
Couhig matriculated at the Roman Catholic Jesuit High School in New Orleans. After moving to West Feliciana Parish, he graduated from St. Francisville High School in 1967 and procured a scholarship to study international economics at the Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C. He completed his Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown and then obtained his Juris Doctorate from the Tulane University Law School in New Orleans.
Couhig married the former Susan Mullins of New York City. The couple has two sons, Robert E. Couhig, III, and Benjamin Couhig. Over time, Couhig said that the pressures of politics, business, and travel adversely affected his family life. He and Susan first separated and then divorced. After being single again for some fifteen years, Couhig in 2003 wed Michelle "Missy" Aleman.
Law and business career
Couhig practiced law in the areas of antitrust, casualty and personal injury litigation, products liability, class-action litigation, and appellate matters. He was a partner in the firm Adams and Reese from 1975 until 2003. He was involved in the expansion of the firm into Baton Rouge, Houston, Jackson, Mississippi, and Washington, D.C. Couhig was also the principal owner of Couhig-Southern Environmental of New Orleans, Inc., one of the largest Louisiana-owned pest and termite control companies. This was the company begun by his father, whom Couhig bought out before he himself sold in 2001 to a firm based in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Though continuing to practice law, Couhig left Adams and Reese on the day after Labor Day 2003. With two other attorneys, he started Couhig Partners in September 2003 as a firm that works with entrepreneurs. As of 2006, the firm had more than twenty lawyers, a consulting group, and an office in Baton Rouge headed by former state Attorney General Richard Ieyoub. Couhig is also the managing partner of Couhig Investments, LLC which invests in small businesses in Louisiana.
In the early 1990s, Couhig decided to bring a minor league baseball former team to New Orleans (which had been without a baseball team since the demise of the former New Orleans Pelicans). He negotiated with the owner of the Zephyrs in Denver, Colorado, to bring the team to New Orleans. He lobbied three governors for a stadium off Airline Highway in Jefferson Parish. In 1995, Couhig put together an investor group to buy the team at an undisclosed price. The new Zephyr Field opened on April 11, 1997, and the team has since been a household name.
Couhig also developed an interest in soccer. In November 1997, he purchased from Donnie Pate the New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers, a team founded four years earlier. Couhig renamed the team the New Orleans Storm and relocated it from Tad Gormley Stadium to Zephyr Field. On February 11, 2000, Couhig sold his New Orleans Zephyrs baseball team to Donald Beaver. Two weeks later, he confirmed the suspension of operations of the Storm soccer team pending a move to another stadium. Couhig said that he probably lost $1 million on the team.
Couhig sold his pest-control company in 2001 and enrolled in the executive MBA course at Tulane in 2002.
Couhig has been active in Louisiana politics since 1971, when at twenty-two, he served as the campaign manager in the election of his half-brother, Sam A. LeBlanc, III, to the Louisiana House of Representatives. Couhig also managed LeBlanc's re-election campaign in 1975. A Democrat, LeBlanc left the legislature in 1980, when he was succeeded in House District 86 (Orleans and Jefferson parishes) by the Republican Terry W. Gee. Sam LeBlanc resides in St. Francisville with his wife, Noelle E. LeBlanc (born May 1942), a ballerina and a one-time secretary of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism. Couhig's mother, Marcelle, was first married to Sam A. LeBlanc, Jr., by whom she also bore a daughter, Marcelle L. Hickey (born August 1940) of New Orleans, Rob Couhig's half-sister.Then living in Donaldsonville in Ascension Parish, Marcelle married the senior Robert Couhig, after the death in World War II of her first husband, Samuel LeBlanc, II.From Marcelle's second marriage were born three more sons and another daughter.
Rob Couhig's brother, Kevin H. Couhig (born October 15, 1951), the CEO of Source Capital Corp., was elected in 2013 as the first parish president of West Feliciana Parish. He defeated fellow Republican Thomas Houston McVea, the former District 62 state representative and a one-time police juror, to claim the new position. Under the new West Feliciana Parish charter, four single-member council districts and one at-large council member superseded the former seven police jurors, whose offices were phased out of existence. Kevin Couhig is an advocate of what he calls "smart growth" so that economic development will expand with the parish maintaining its scenic beauty.
In 1976, Couhig changed his registration to the Republican Party. In 1977, he became the campaign coordinator for Republican Bob Livingston, who for the second time sought to represent Louisiana's 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. Livingston had lost in the 1976 general election to Democrat Richard Alvin Tonry. When Tonry was forced to resign because of campaign finance violations in 1977, Livingston won the seat in a special election, with Couhig's backing, and served until 1999.
First run for Congress, 1980
In 1980, Couhig waged a failed challenge to Democratic U.S. Representative Corrine Claiborne "Lindy" Boggs (1916-2013) of Louisiana's 2nd congressional district, popular widow of former House Majority Leader Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr. (1914-1972), of New Orleans. Couhig raised some $200,000 (nearly 625,000 in 2019 dollars), a large amount at that time for a challenger in a difficult district. Lindy Boggs was the winner; she polled 45,091 votes (63.8 percent) to Couhig's 25,512 (36.2 percent). She was never seriously challenged in all of her congressional races between 1973 and 1988, when she won her last term. Couhig was actually among the stronger opponents that Boggs ever faced. Another candidate in the 1980 congressional race, Democrat Clyde F. Bel, Jr., of New Orleans, had served in the Louisiana House with Couhig's half-brother, Sam LeBlanc. Bel finished with less than 5 percent of the ballots cast.
The 2nd congressional district did not support a Republican candidate for Congress until the general election held on December 6, 2008, when the Vietnamese refugee, Joseph Cao, unseated the scandal-plagued William J. Jefferson, who had succeeded Mrs. Boggs in 1991. Cao, however, was quickly unseated in the 2010 general election by the African-American Democrat Cedric Richmond. Not long after his first congressional race, Couhig was the campaign manager for Republican State Representative Garey Forster, who represented the New Orleans French Quarter district from 1982 to 1997.
Second run for Congress, 1999
Couhig ran for Congress again in the special election held on May 1, 1999, in the 1st congressional district to choose the successor to Bob Livingston, who resigned amid a sex scandal revealed when Livingston was slated to become the new Speaker of the House. Couhig finished in fifth place with 5,149 votes (8 percent). Former Republican Governor David C. Treen was forced into a runoff for the seat with state Representative David Vitter who narrowly won the second round of balloting and held the seat from 1999 to 2005, when he became the state's first Republican U.S. Senator since Reconstruction. Couhig was even overshadowed in the House race by the controversial Republican convert, David Duke.
Couhig said that he had expected Livingston to support him in 1999 in return for the help that Couhig had rendered to Livingston in the 1977 election. Couhig said that his weak showing may have been a reflection of his inability to convince voters how his vision differed from the other Republican candidates. He noted that he spent $500,000 (770,000 in 2019 dollars) of his own money on the race despite bleak prospects.
2006 mayoral bid
In 2005, Greater New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and related levee failures. The majority of the city was still in ruins and the majority of the population still living elsewhere in early 2006, for what many felt was the most important election in the city's history. Couhig and Peggy Wilson, a former member of the New Orleans City Council, were the two Republican candidates for mayor. His campaign started with television ads mocking the perceived leading candidates, Mitch Landrieu, Ron Forman, and incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin. In televised debates prior to the nonpartisan blanket primary, Couhig's combative style attracted attention. MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews declared Couhig the "absolute winner" of the pre-primary debate.
Couhig said that New Orleans residents should accent "self-reliance" in the post-Katrina rebuilding, rather than a sense of "entitlement". Couhig criticized Nagin for supposedly "sugar-coating" the city's woes. He claimed that Nagin was "reaping short-term political gains at the expense of the city's long-term best interests." Couhig said that his opponents were promoting a "fantasy" that the city can continue operating on a budget meant for nearly half a million people when fewer than half that many persons remained in New Orleans in the spring of 2006. Couhig said that the city could not sustain basic services in sparsely populated areas. He also chided Nagin for his use of the term "Chocolate City." He urged Nagin, who had supported the 2003 Republican gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal along with other Republican candidates, to "stop pandering for political gain."
Couhig finished a distant fourth in the April 22 primary with 10,312 votes (10 percent). He led in seven precincts. A second Republican, former city councilwoman Peggy Wilson received another 773 votes (1 percent). Eighty-nine percent of New Orleans voters supported a Democratic candidate in the primary.
The general election was scheduled between the top two candidates, the incumbent Nagin and Democratic Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu. Despite his earlier criticism of Nagin, Couhig enthusiastically endorsed Nagin, made television ads urging his reelection, and helped to mobilize the city's Republicans and conservatives behind the incumbent mayor. Couhig's support may have been the "swing vote" that was critical to Nagin's reelection. Couhig said that the Landrieu "political dynasty" had failed the city. (This was a reference to Mitch Landrieu's sister Mary Landrieu and his father, former Mayor Maurice Edwin "Moon" Landrieu.) Couhig noted that the New Orleans population peaked in 1960, even before the rise of the Landrieu family to political dominance.
In the second Nagin administration, Couhig volunteered to work unpaid for one hundred days. He co-chaired Nagin's 100-Day Initiative Plan with business owner Judith Williams. He then co-hosted The Rob and Bo Show, a weekly radio talk show on WRNO-FM with Bo Walker, until the program was canceled at the end of January 2008.
Last bid for mayor, 2010
In December 2009, Couhig announced his candidacy in the 2010 New Orleans mayoral election. He finished fourth with 5 percent of the ballots cast.
The race was won instead by the Democrat Mitch Landrieu, an unsuccessful candidate in 2007, who received 65 percent of the vote. Couhig's half-brother, Sam LeBlanc, had run for mayor in 1986 and finished with 25 percent of the vote, a strong third-place showing in a multi-candidate primary field, but victory in the runoff that year went to the African-American Democrat Sidney Barthelemy.
- Rob Couhig. couhigpartners.com. Retrieved on May 31, 2014; no longer on-line.
- Robert E. "Bob" Couhig, Sr. obituary. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on May 30, 2014.
- "Gamblers become Storm, relocate to Zephyr Field," The New Orleans Times-Picayune, November 21, 1997.
- "Storm suspends operations for now," The New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 26, 2000.
- Louisiana WW2 NMCG Casualty List – L Surnames. accessgenealogy.com. Retrieved on May 31, 2014.
- Steven Ward (November 18, 2013). Couhig becomes first West Feliciana Parish president. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on May 30, 2014.
- Rob Couhig's sister, Owen Couhig Kemp (born May 1950), lives in St. Francisville. Another brother, Mark Couhig (born c. 1953) and wife Linda, resided at the time of their father's death in Sequim in Clallam County in western Washington.
- Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, April 22, 2006.
- "Couhig enters mayor's race through cyber gateway," Fox8live.com; no longer on-line.
- Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, February 1, 1986.