Ron Gomez

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Ronald James "Ron" Gomez, Sr.

State Representative for
Lafayette Parish, Louisiana
In office
March 1980 – 1989
Preceded by Allen Bares
Succeeded by Don Higginbotham

Born October 18, 1934
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Political party Democrat-turned-Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Purdy Linton Gomez, later Purdy Gers (divorced)

(2) Carol Ross Gomez (married 1975)

Children All from first marriage:

Nanette Oliver
Ron "Jimmie" Gomez, Jr.
Laurence Hughes Gomez
Gregory Stephen Gomez (1962-1996)

Residence Lafayette, Louisiana
Occupation Journalist

Businessman

Religion Roman Catholic
Notes

(1) Gomez was the radio voice of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette "Ragin' Cajuns," for nearly twenty years before he succeeded in pushing construction of the new stadium, the Cajundome, which opened in 1985.

(2) As a legislator, Gomez avoided partisan wrangling and concentrated on "good government" reforms, including tort reform, regional banking, and repeal of the blue laws.

(3) As a baby, Gomez was strolled by his mother past the coffin of the assassinated Huey Pierce Long, Jr.

(4) Gomez joined the Buddy Roemer administration at mid-term to become secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, through which capacity he worked to replenish the shrinking wetlands.

(5) In 1989, Gomez was a colleague of controversial Representative David Duke, whom he had interviewed as a journalist in the 1970s when Duke was running for a seat in the state Senate from Baton Rouge.

(6) Gomez's memoirs reveal previously unknown material on such lawmakers as Carl Newton Gunter, Jr. (1938-1999), of Rapides Parish, Shady Wall of West Monroe, Robert Adley of Bossier Parish, and Ed Scogin of Slidell.

Ronald James Gomez, known as Ron Gomez (born October 14, 1934) is a journalist, author, and businessman from Lafayette, Louisiana who served as a state representative from 1980 to 1989.[1] From 1990 to 1992, he was the secretary of natural resources in the cabinet of Governor Buddy Roemer. In 1992, Gomez, as a Democrat, launched a strong but losing race for mayor of Lafayette. He ran for office each time as a "good government reform" candidate without emphasis on party affiliation.

Background

Gomez's paternal grandfather, Antoine "Neat" Gomez, was of both French and Spanish descent and spoke both languages. He married a fully French woman named Marie Griffon, Gomez's grandmother. Gomez's third novel, entitled Neat, is based on the life of his grandfather, who lived to be 101. Gomez's maternal grandfather was John Alleman, fully French, and married to a French woman by the name of Lambert. She died when Gomez's mother was only twelve. Gomez's heritage is hence at least three-fourths French but with an Hispanic surname.[2]

Gomez was born and reared in the capital city of Baton Rouge to Laurence Fletcher Gomez (1897-1964) and the former Anastasie Marie Alleman (1896-1983),[3] originally from Donaldsonville in Ascension Parish, years earlier one of the cities that was the temporary Louisiana capital. The senior Gomez served in the United States Army infantry in France during World War I. Laurence Gomez had nine siblings and spoke only French until he entered school. Similarly, Mrs. Anastasie Gomez and her six siblings were brought up speaking only French. Originally a farm couple, the Gomezes moved to Baton Rouge in the 1920s and reared five children. Laurence Gomez first worked at the Standard Oil refinery in Baton Rouge, but prior to the Great Depression procured a position as a rural letter carrier from the downtown United States Post Office in Baton Rouge. Ron Gomez says that his father could have been jobless during the depression had he not found the low-paying but steady postal position. Ron Gomez was born at home in the 1800 block of Highland Road in Baton Rouge, the last baby that Mrs. Gomez's physician delivered at home. Thereafter, the doctor handled all of his deliveries in a hospital. In 1940, the family moved to a house on Ferndale Avenue in the University Gardens subdivision near the Louisiana State University campus.[4]

When Huey Pierce Long, Jr., was assassinated in September 1935, Gomez was less than a year old. His mother placed him in a stroller and went to the new state capitol building to stand in line as citizens shuffled through to pay their respects. Gomez said that his mother was not necessarily a Long supporter but wanted to participate in an historic event of such magnitude. It was Long who had directed the building of the skyscraper-shaped capitol in only fifteen months from 1930 to 1931.[5]

As a boy in Baton Rouge, Gomez said that he felt a kinship with the capitol building because of its physical, political, and cultural dominance of the city. He played in the downtown area during the 1940s, spending time in parks and theaters, while his mother worked as a seamstress at a department store. His two brothers, Griffin (1923-2009) and Hewitt Gomez, and two sisters, Dorothy Frazee and Elaine Cortelloni, were already grown by that time; both brothers served in World War II.[6]

Gomez graduated in 1952 from Baton Rouge High School and attended LSU for one year before enlisting in the United States Air Force. Thereafter, he enrolled for a single semester at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.[2]

Journalist and civic leader

Gomez first tackled the tasks of sports announcing for J.C. Politz of LSU in 1959 and thereafter became the radio voice of the ULL (then University of Southwestern Louisiana) Ragin' Cajuns" football and basketball teams from 1961 to 1979.[7]The Ragin' Cajuns played in the Grantland Rice Bowl in 1973; that game was televised but apparently reached a smaller audience than Gomez's audio coverage of the regular games. In 1978, Gomez was the president of the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, from which position he laid the groundwork for construction of the popular Cajundome sports complex, known for its stunning architectural design. Gomez worked to secure the stadium in the David C. Treen Republican administration, but it was not opened and dedicated until November 10, 1985, by which time Democrat Edwin Edwards had returned to the governorship. [8]

Gomez appeared on Lafayette KPEL-TV from 1963 to 1965 on an early morning show called simply "A.M.", with Bob Hamm, Frank Hosea, and John Plauche. He also continued with the radio play-by-play and hosted a weekly coach's program until 1977, with assistance from coaches Russ Faulkinberry and Augie Tammariello. In the spring of 1965, Gomez became the KPEL station manager, with ownership of 10 percent of the company.[2]

In his 2000 autobiography. My Name is Ron and I Am a Recovering Legislator, Gomez recalls how his early interest in communications came to fruition: "My earliest ambition was to be a radio announcer, specifically, a play-by-play sportscaster. I was fortunate enough to fulfill that ambition at an early age. In my [then fifty-seven] years in the broadcasting industry, I worked in almost every position, commercial announcer, disc jockey, copywriter, news and sports reporter, sales representative, manager, and finally, owner of three South Louisiana radio stations, KPEL and KTDY in Lafayette and KTQQ in Sulphur near Lake Charles. [9]

In 1979, Gomez was named "Louisiana Broadcaster of the Year."[10] He sold the stations in 1988.[2] In 2008, Gomez became operating partner and publisher of a free, weekly, conservative newspaper The Acadiana Gazette, which is distributed primarily in Broussard, Youngsville, and south Lafayette. In addition to his memoir and the novel Neat, Gomez has published two other books, Pelican Games, a novel based on a Louisiana gubernatorial campaign, and Slam Dunked, based on the behind-the-scenes story of the basketball suspension of USL by the NCAA in 1973. [2]

Lafayette legislator

The open seat in District 44 developed when Representative Allen Bares ran successfully that year for the state Senate seat vacated by failed gubernatorial candidate Edgar G. "Sonny" Mouton, Jr., of Lafayette. In the 1979 general election, when David Treen was elected governor, Gomez defeated a Republican woman, Mary Regan, the wife of a prominent Lafayette psychiatrist. She had been a volunteer nurse at the state Capitol and had developed an interest in politics through that experience. Gomez led in the nonpartisan blanket primary with 42 percent of the vote, and Regan trailed with 20 percent. Gomez recalled Regan as having "a very sweet demeanor, and I really didn't look forward to having to debate her" throughout a second election. Gomez ultimately defeated Regan, 76-24 percent. [11] He prevailed again in 1983 with 82 percent of the vote against a single Democratic opponent with the unlikely name of Cleophile "Bobby" Babineaux, who carried the backing of organized labor.[12]

Though a Democrat in the legislature, Gomez opposed most populist and liberal measures pushed by his party. He worked closely with fellow Lafayette representative, Michael F. Thompson, a Democrat-turned-Republican who was unseated in 1987 in a bitter campaign by an Independent, Don Bacque.[13]

Gomez worked in 1986 to repeal the state's blue laws, among the last Sunday-closing requirements in the nation. Gomez determined that retailers along the borders of Louisiana were operating at a disadvantages because the surrounding states had already ended their restrictions on Sunday shopping. After debate centering upon issues of business and religion, the legislature ended the blue laws, effective December 1, 1986. Gomez commented: "When I drive past large shopping centers and malls now on Sundays and see their parking lots overflowing with shoppers' vehicles, it's hard to believe that could not be seen in Louisiana just over [twenty] years ago.[14] Gomez also obtained passage of a regional banking bill despite opposition from then U.S. Representative Buddy Roemer, a former banker originally from Bossier Parish in northwestern Louisiana.[15]

Gomez failed in attempts to obtain tort reform. The House Committee on Civil Law consisted mostly of plaintiff trial attorneys, and the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association mobilized its membership against the reform. The association invited consumer advocate Ralph Nader to appear at a committee hearing and to hold a press conference opposing Gomez's bills. Gomez also noted the lack of grass roots support for his reform proposals: "Most people had no idea what we were trying to do. Only individuals who had been sued or business owners who were fighting the liberal tort laws for survival could relate."[16] In 1992, Gomez became executive director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, an interest group which worked to educate the public on the abuse of the civil justice system through what Gomez termed "decades of liberal legislators, governors, judges, and a small put politically powerful group of plaintiff trial attorneys."[17] Several of the reforms that Gomez had sought were later enacted in the administration of Republican Governor Murphy J. "Mike" Foster, Jr. [18]

Relations with Governors Edwards and Treen

In a 1986 address before the Louisiana Broadcasters Association, Gomez criticized Governor Edwards, Edward J. Steimel, the president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, and House colleague Kevin Reilly of Baton Rouge. In his book Gomez explains:

Louisiana doesn't need a governor threatening to quit if he doesn't get his way (Edwards had said if we didn't pass his gambling proposals he would resign.), a business leader (Steimel) insinuating the state's education system sucks, or an influential legislator (Reilly) portraying Louisiana's people as 'plain dumb.' . . . I think we need the governor to govern, he's a brilliant man. We need him to use that brilliance to try to solve the problems in ways other than [threatening resignation]. . . . We need to stop blaming and start working toward solutions. I feel as though there is a group of us in the middle of all this who are trying to to tell the governor, 'you can't get gambling passed, so please use your brilliance to do something else.

After the 1986 session, Gomez was listed as the "Most Valuable Player" to business. The late columnist John Maginnis wrote: "Gomez . . . is not an attorney, but he sponsored the liability reform package before the lawyer-packed House Civil Law Committee, a heretic before the inquisition. He mastered and cogently argued the issue in committee -- to no avail, though the fault was in the lobbying, not in the sponsorship. Gomez also guided through the interstate banking bill which will change the face of banking, again, in Louisiana."[20]

Gomez did not endorse gubernatorial candidates but attended more than one reception for Mouton for governor in 1979. He later disclosed that he had voted in 1983 for the incumbent Republican Governor Treen, who was decisively unseated by the return of Edwin Edwards. At a political gathering in Lafayette in which most in attendance went to the microphone to say "I endorse Edwin Edwards for governor," Gomez declined to do so, having hence acquired the wrath of Edwards' brother, Marion Edwards, who had organized the event. Representative Raymond "LaLa" Lalonde of Sunset in St. Landry Parish also refused to endorse Edwards before the gathering. Like Gomez, Lalonde eventually became a Republican.[21]

Edwards had long been critical of Gomez, having once called the lawmaker "a good-government son-of-a-bitch".[22] and claimed that Gomez had been "f______ the poor people."[23] Gomez said that he had initially been "persuaded by Edwards' 1983 campaign rhetoric. I thought he really was ready to change. I had been made a floor leader in my freshman term under Dave Treen partly through the efforts of his executive counsel, 'Sonny' Mouton, and partly because I was older and thus presumably more mature than . . . the other freshman legislators. That gave me a taste for being in the center of the action. I believe in my leadership abilities and believed that Edwards truly wanted to use his vast powers and personal talents to right the ship of state. [Because of] the state's economic woes and his own personal traits, Dave Treen [had not been] an effective governor."[24]

Other political moves

As Governor Roemer's human resources secretary from 1990 to 1992, Gomez concentrated much of his efforts on preservation of the shrinking Louisiana coast lands, managed through the Office of Coastal Restoration. He also chaired an Oil Spill Task Force which made recommendation enacted by the legislature in 1991 to reduce the impact of future oil-spillage accidents.[25]

As his tenure as natural resources secretary ended, Gomez entered the Lafayette mayor's race held on March 10, 1992, in conjunction with the presidential primaries in Louisiana. The incumbent Republican Dud Lastrapes, a former journalist and an insurance agent who later became his party's state chairman, did not seek a fourth term. Gomez led the primary field with 12,127 votes (40 percent) and went into a second race with former Mayor Kenneth Francis "Kenny" Bowen. a Republican-turned-Democrat, who had previously held the position of mayor from 1972 to 1980. Bowen trailed in the first primary with 10,301 (34 percent). Two other candidates also ran, Democrat Kathy Ashworth, with 7,344 (24 percent), and Republican Emile Vidrine, with 603 votes (2 percent). [26] In the all-Democratic general election allowed under the Louisiana primary system and held on April 11, Bowen defeated Gomez by 166 votes, 14,677 to 14,511.[27] Gomez described his opponent, Mayor Bowen as "acrimonious" [with a] usual confrontational, self-serving, and cynical mode." [28]

Personal life

Gomez is divorced from the former Purdy Linton, now Purdy Gers of Baton Rouge. In 1975, he married his second and current wife, the former Carol Ross, a USL graduate originally from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, who assists him in the current operation of The Acadiana Gazette. Carol Gomez has an advertising agency known as Edge Communications, with such clients as the Lafayette Surgical Specialty Hospital. She also has her own radio program on KPEL-Lafayette and has on occasion substituted for statewide broadcaster Moon Griffon. Gomez has three living children from the previous marriage, Ronald James "Jimmie" Gomez, Jr., of Baton Rouge, Nanette Oliver of Lafayette, and Laurence Hughes Gomez of Austin, Texas. He held the custody of the children after the divorce. A third son, Gregory Stephen Gomez, died in 1996 in Austin in an accident at the age of thirty-three. As of 2010, Gomez had six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. [2] Gomez recalls his mother's warning to him as a guiding light to integrity when he announced for state representative in 1979: "If you're not careful, you'll end up just as crooked as all those other politicians." Gomez said, "I never forgot her warning. The honesty, integrity and humility of this saintly woman as well as my father's simple but solid principles were pounded into all five children with regularity."[29]

References

1. "Membership of the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812-2012". house.louisiana.gov. Retrieved February 8, 2010.

2. a b c d e f Interview of Ron Gomez by Billy Hathorn, February 11, 2010

3. "Social Security Death Index". ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com.

4. Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron and I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative, (Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, pp. 3,5 ISBN: 0-9700156-0-7.

5. Gomez, Recovering Legislator p. 4.

6. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, pp. 4-6, 12-14.

7. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, p. 9.

8. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, pp. 111-112.

9. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, p. 9.

10. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, pp. 27, 142.

11. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, pp. 30-37.

12. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, p. 128.

13. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, pp. 80, 98, 224-225.

14. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, p. 159.

15. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, pp. 159-161.

16. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, p. 161.

17. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, p. 161.

18. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, pp. 161-162.

19. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, pp. 162-164.

20. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, p. 165.

21. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, pp. 142-149.

22. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, p. 130.

23. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, p. 120.

24. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, p. 142.

25. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, p. 266.

26. Louisiana election returns, March 10, 1992, Louisiana Secretary of State.

27. Louisiana election returns, April 11, 1992, Louisiana Secretary of State.

28. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, pp. 22-23.

29. Gomez, Recovering Legislator, p. 8.