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Buddy Roemer (1943–2021), former Louisiana governor

by Linnea Crowther

Buddy Roemer was governor of Louisiana from 1988 to 1992, and he became the first governor in U.S. history to switch political parties while in office.

Political career

Roemer began his political career in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving four terms from 1980 to 1988. A Democrat, Roemer nevertheless often supported Republican President Ronald Reagan’s (1911–2004) policies. He jumped into a crowded gubernatorial race in 1987 and intrigued voters by promising a “Roemer Revolution” featuring an improved budget and a reformed education system. It looked like he’d have to compete in a runoff election until incumbent Edwin Edwards surprisingly conceded the race to Roemer on election night.

Some of Roemer’s campaign promises came true, as when he worked to turn around a crushing budget deficit and secured higher pay for teachers. He brought riverboat gambling to Louisiana and presided over much-needed environmental reforms. But he lost the support of voters over the years, and he couldn’t bring it back when, in 1991, he made the unique decision to switch from Democrat to Republican while in office. Roemer lost his bid for reelection and lost again when he ran in 1995.

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Later years

Roemer ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, but after a poor showing early in the campaign, he announced that he would no longer be running as a Republican. He first sought the nomination of the short-lived Americans Elect organization, then of the Reform Party. Roemer ultimately dropped out of the presidential race. He founded two banks, the Business Bank and Business First Bank. He also advised Senator John McCain (1936–2018) in his 2008 presidential campaign.

Roemer’s memorable campaign slogan

“I love Louisiana, but I hate Louisiana politics.”

Tributes to Buddy Roemer

Full obituary: The Advocate

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