Hunt Downer

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Huntington Blair
"Hunt" Downer, Jr.


Secretary of the Louisiana
Department of Veterans Affairs
In office
2004–2008
Governor Kathleen Blanco
Bobby Jindal
Preceded by Joey Strickland
Succeeded by Lane Carson

Louisiana State Representative
for District 52 (Terrebonne
and Lafourche parishes)
In office
1976–2004
Preceded by Elward Thomas Brady, Jr.

Morris Lottinger, Jr.

Succeeded by Gordon Dove

Speaker of the
Louisiana House of Representatives
In office
1996–2000
Preceded by John Alario
Succeeded by Charles W. DeWitt, Jr.

Born April 28, 1946
Nationality American
Political party Democrat-turned-Republican (2001)
Spouse(s) Linda Faye Lee Downer
Children Mary Lee Downer

Blair Downer

Alma mater Terrebonne High School
(Houma, Louisiana)

Louisiana State University
Nicholls State University
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law


Military Service
Service/branch United States Army Corps of Engineers
Years of service 1968 to 2010
Rank Major General
Battles/wars Operation Desert Storm
Awards Bronze Star

Legion of Merit
Kuwait Liberation Medal

Huntington Blair Downer, Jr., known as Hunt Downer (born April 28, 1946), is a Republican former politician in the U.S. state of Louisiana. He is the former assistant adjutant general of the state National Guard and the first ever director of the Louisiana Veterans Affairs Department.

A former Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives from Houma in Terrebonne Parish in south Louisiana, Downer ran for governor in 2003 and finished in sixth place in the nonpartisan blanket primary.[1]

Background

Downer graduated in 1964 from Terrebonne High School in Houma and first attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Nicholls State University (then College) in Thibodaux in Lafourche Parish. He was named to Who's Who Among Colleges and Universities in 1967. In 1974, he received his law degree from Loyola University in New Orleans. He did graduate work at LSU and studied at the United States Army War College in 1999.[1]

While in college and law school, Downer held a number of odd jobs: oilfield roustabout from 1970 to 71, legislative assistant from 1970 to 1972, and school bus driver from 1965 to 1970.

Downer is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, and the United States Court of Military Appeals. He is married to the former Linda Faye Lee.The couple has two children, Mary Lee Downer of Houma and Blair Downer,[1] a project manager of Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport in Lafourche Parish.[2]

In 2007, Downer was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.[3]

Army career

Downer joined the United States Army Reserve as an enlisted man in 1968. He obtained a commission in 1971 as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Corps of Engineers. He then joined the Louisiana National Guard as a first lieutenant of the Judge Advocate General's Corps. In time, Downer became a lieutenant colonel, brigadier general, and a major general.[1]

He served in Operation Desert Storm from October 1990 to May 1991. Downer has won more than a dozen military awards, including the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, and the Kuwait Liberation Medal.[1]

Legislator

Downer was first elected as a Democrat to the state House in the first ever nonpartisan blanket primary held on November 1, 1975. He represented District 52 (Lafourche and his native Terrebonne parishes) from 1976 until January 2004. In his penultimate term, 1996 to 2000, he was Speaker during the administration of Republican Governor Murphy James "Mike" Foster, Jr. For his second term, Governor Foster removed Downer as Speaker and replaced him with another Democrat, Charles DeWitt of Rapides Parish. Former legislator Ron Gomez of Lafayette said that Downer "did a terrific job [as Speaker] before being unceremoniously dumped by Governor Foster after the fall 1999 elections."[4]

In 1987, Downer, as a Democrat, was named "Legislator of the Month" by the Louisiana Municipal Association. He was named "Outstanding Young Man of the Year" in 1977 by the Jaycees. He won the American Jurisprudence Award in 1971. During much of his legislative career through December 2003, Downer was affiliated with the law firm of Waitz & Downer in Houma. He has since retired from the firm.[1]

In 2000, Downer endorsed the Republican presidential ticket of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. A year later, he formally switched parties, at Bush's invitation, and announced his candidacy for governor in 2003.

2003 Louisiana gubernatorial race

Downer formally switched parties in 2001 and two years later announced his candidacy for governor as a Republican Three Republican gubernatorial candidates dropped out of the race early and endorsed Downer: former Governor David C. Treen, then living in St. Tammany, state Senator Jesse Kendrick "Ken" Hollis, Jr., of Jefferson Parish, and Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Jack A. "Jay" Blossman, Jr., of Mandeville in St. Tammany Parish. However, the majority of Republican voters supported Bobby Jindal, then of Baton Rouge (later a U.S. Representative from the New Orleans suburbs.

Downer secured the endorsement of thirty-three members of the state legislature from both parties and both chambers, including Republican Representatives Carl Crane of Baton Rouge and Ernie Alexander of Lafayette as well as the Democrat Francis C. Thompson of Delhi in Richland Parish in northeast Louisiana. Yet, Downer received only 84,718 votes (6 percent) in the primary, compared to 444,389 ballots (33 percent) for Jindal. In turn, Jindal was defeated by the leading Democrat Kathleen Blanco of Lafayette in the general election. Soon after her election, Blanco appointed Downer as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, and later as her legislative director in the Office of the Governor.

2010 U.S. congressional campaign

In 2010, Downer was a candidate for the District 3 seat in the U.S. House vacated by Democrat Charlie Melancon in a bid to unseat U.S. Senator David Vitter for the United States Senate. He lost a party runoff on October 2, 2010, to conservative newcomer Jeff Landry, who had the backing of the Tea Party movement. In that campaign, Landry accused Downer of being a "liberal Democrat" though Downer had switch parties nine years earlier.[5][6]

Landry lost his House seat after one term to Moderate Republican Charles Boustany, Jr., of Lafayette. Since 2016, Landry has been the state attorney general.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 The Voter's Self Defense System - Vote Smart, Hunt Downer, Jr., accessed May 6, 2021.
  2. Blair Downer. linkedin.com. Retrieved on May 6, 2021.
  3. Hall of Fame Inductees. Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame. Retrieved on May 6, 2021.
  4. Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron And I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative, Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, p. 182.
  5. Stephanie Grace, "Partisan divide comes late to Louisiana," The New Orleans Times-Picayune, October 19, 2010.
  6. Eugene Kiely (August 26, 2010). A Bitter Battle in the Bayou:Two Republicans go negative in final days of Louisiana House primary. factcheck.com. Retrieved on May 6, 2021.