- Murphy J. Foster, Jr.
Murphy J. Foster, Jr. Governor Mike Foster at a meeting 53rd Governor of Louisiana In office
January 8, 1996 – January 12, 2004
Lieutenant Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Preceded by Edwin Edwards Succeeded by Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Member of the Louisiana Senate
from the 21st district
Preceded by Anthony Guarisco, Jr. Succeeded by John Siracusa Personal details Born July 11, 1930
Political party Democratic (1987–1995)
Spouse(s) Alice C. Foster Residence Franklin, Louisiana Alma mater Louisiana State University Profession Rancher; businessman Religion Episcopalian Military service Service/branch United States Air Force Battles/wars Korean War
Murphy James "Mike" Foster, Jr. (born July 11, 1930) served as 53rd Governor of Louisiana from January 1996 until January 2004. Foster's father was Murphy J. Foster, Jr., but Mike Foster uses "Jr." even though he is technically Murphy J. Foster, III. Foster is a businessman, landowner, and sportsman in St. Mary Parish in the sugar-growing section of south Louisiana.
Early life and career
Mike Foster was born in Franklin, Louisiana, the son of Murphy J. Foster, a Franklin-area sugar planter and owner of oil and gas lands, and Olive (Roberts) Foster, from a prominent Shreveport family. Mike Foster attended public high school in Franklin, graduated from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in 1952 with a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry, and Southern University Law Center with a Juris Doctorate in 2004. He became an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America in 1946 and is a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. He was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity (Zeta Zeta chapter) and The Friars. He joined the Air Force and served in the Korean War. His paternal grandfather, Murphy J. Foster Sr., had served as governor of Louisiana from 1892 to 1900 and thereafter as United States senator from 1900 to 1913. By the time Mike Foster entered politics, he had become a wealthy sugar planter and owner of a construction firm. He lived at Oaklawn Manor, an antebellum plantation mansion in Franklin.
Foster entered politics at the age of 57. In 1987, then-Democrat Foster unseated liberal Democratic state Senator Anthony Guarisco, Jr., of Morgan City by a large margin. Guarisco had been a vocal legislative supporter of the defunct Equal Rights Amendment. Foster served two terms in the state Senate.
Election as governor, 1995
Foster entered the 1995 gubernatorial race as a minor candidate whom most local political observers discounted. Then in September 1995, Foster announced he would qualify for the race as a Republican. The Republicans had not coalesced on a candidate, and Foster's announcement that he was switching parties vaulted him from single digits in the polls to serious contention. Foster rode a wave of popular dissatisfaction with the more unsavory aspects of the casino gambling that had been legalized by outgoing governor Edwin Edwards. Foster came out strongly against gambling and pledged to run Louisiana "like a business." His conservative platform included attacks on welfare abuse, gun control, affirmative action and racial quotas, and political corruption.
Foster edged out two more well-known candidates for a seat in the runoff with then-Congressman Cleo Fields, a prominent black Democratic politician. Future U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu ran third, missing the general election berth by just 8,983 votes (0.6 percent of the total votes cast). Former governor Buddy Roemer, seeking a gubernatorial comeback, came in fourth place. Foster's embrace of the Republican label and his conservative platform undercut Roemer, another Democrat-turned-Republican.
Reminiscent of his grandfather's inauguration virtually a century earlier, Mike Foster's inauguration ceremony on January 8, 1996 occurred at the Old State Capitol. Always a man of few words, Foster remarked briefly about the historicity of the occasion and made cordial statements about incumbent four-term governor Edwin Edwards, who was there.
Foster defeated black Democratic candidates in both of his campaigns for governor—Cleo Fields in 1995 and Congressman William Jefferson in 1999. He defeated Jefferson in a landslide, avoiding a runoff with 64% of the vote. His second inauguration took place on January 10, 2000.
Foster as governor
Foster was widely seen as having favored business to a greater degree than had previous governors. He retained the secretary of economic development, former legislator Kevin P. Reilly, Sr., of Baton Rouge, the former CEO of Lamar Advertising Company of Baton Rouge. He ended state affirmative action and set-aside programs, which earned him the support of the business community but prompted protests from civil rights groups. Foster also targeted tort reform and ended the practice by which trial lawyers could seek punitive damages from businesses. Foster had close relations with the statewide pro-business lobby group Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) for most of his tenure, though there were short-lived tensions in 2000 over Foster’s attempt to raise business taxes in an effort to secure funding for higher education. By the end of his second term, Foster was receiving criticism for his reluctance to take business trips in order to attract businesses and jobs to Louisiana, and for enrolling in part-time law school classes while still in office.
He re-organized the state’s community college system by creating the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, and expanded the Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) so students were eligible based on merit rather than simply income. Foster instituted mandatory standardized testing for grade advancement, in a move described by his administration as an effort to make public schools more accountable. He also made increasing teacher salaries a major priority, at one point promising to stop cashing his paychecks until teachers’ salaries reached the Southern average. Andy Kopplin served as Governor Foster's chief of staff. He also retained Aubrey W. Young, originally the aide de camp to Governor John J. McKeithen, as the drug and alcohol counselor in the Department of Health and Hospitals.
The two Speakers of the House under Foster's administration were Democrat (later Republican) Hunt Downer of Terrebonne Parish and Charles W. DeWitt, Jr., a Democrat from Rapides Parish. In Louisiana, the governor practically handpicks the Speaker despite the separation of powers. Foster also relied heavily on Republican State Representative Chuck McMains of Baton Rouge as a legislative floor leader for the administration. He named Republican Representative Garey Forster of New Orleans as his state labor secretary.
While serving as Governor of Louisiana, Foster was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans historical society. Known for going to bed early, Foster still managed to adjust to evening classes he took while Governor at the Southern University Law Center.
An avid motorcycling enthusiast, Foster introduced an initiative while governor to remove a legal mandate that required motorcyclists to wear helmets when they ride on the highways. This initiative was later overturned by his successor, Democratic Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.
Foster was the Louisiana campaign chairman for George W. Bush in 2000.
Despite having run on an anti-gambling platform, in office Foster became a quiet supporter of the gambling industry. His advocacy of a bailout bill for the Harrah’s casino in New Orleans helped ensure the passage of the measure. Prior to leaving office, Foster quarreled with fellow Republican Representative David Vitter over expanded gambling on Indian reservations. The dispute did not prevent Vitter from winning the other U.S. Senate seat vacated by Democrat John Breaux in 2004.
Atchafalaya Basin Program
In November 1996 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested Governor Foster appoint a lead agency to coordinate state participation in the Atchafalaya Basin Project. Foster appointed the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, headed by Secretary Caldwell, as the lead agency. At the request of the Governor, Caldwell called Sandra Thompson, a highly regarded state administrator from the 1970s, back to state government. She was again asked to head the project, an important position in the preservation of the environment, and accepted the appointment. The project encompasses a million acres (4,000 km²) and 140 miles (230 km) of swampland. In December 1996, the Atchafalaya Basin Advisory Committee was created, members appointed, and planning initiated that resulted in the Atchafalaya Basin Master Plan, as authorized by congress. A result of this plan was the creation of the Sherburne Complex (Section 4.41-B) that includes the partnership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The area consists of 44,000 acres (180 km2), and is managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Foster and David Duke
In his 1995 campaign, Foster paid more than $150,000 for former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke's mailing list of supporters. After failing to report the purchase as a campaign expenditure, Foster became the first Louisiana governor to admit and pay a fine for a violation of the state's ethics code. Foster insists he did not need to report the expenditure because he paid Duke with his personal funds and did not utilize the list in his campaign. Duke had also endorsed Foster in the 1995 campaign. (La. Campaign Finance Opinion No. 99-360)
Foster initially seemed to favor Duke's run for the Senate seat being vacated in 1996 by J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., but under pressure from the Republican Party, he did not officially endorse Duke. Instead, the Republican consensus choice for the Senate was veteran state Representative Louis Elwood "Woody" Jenkins of Baton Rouge. Jenkins was narrowly defeated by Johnston's choice, Mary Landrieu. Foster also endorsed Patrick J. Buchanan for the 1996 Republican nomination, the only governor to support Buchanan. However, he refused to vote in the Louisiana presidential primary held on March 12, 1996. Thereafter, he switched his support to pending nominee Robert J. Dole.
Foster and Dan Richey
In 1997, Foster named former state Senator Daniel Wesley "Dan" Richey, to head the new Governor's Program on Abstinence. The appointment became controversial in 2002, when the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state on grounds that Richey had permitted religious instruction to be used in the program in violation of federal law. Foster and Richey went to court to defend the program and pledged that violations cited by the ACLU had been remedied. The program is underwritten by the national welfare-reform law of 1996.
In retirement, Foster lives with his wife Alice C. Foster (born 1940) on the family estate near Franklin, the seat of St. Mary Parish. Mrs. Foster is active in the Sunshine Foundation in Baton Rouge, which seeks to enhance self-esteem among Louisiana public school youngsters.
State Senator, 21st Senatorial District, 1987
Threshold > 50%
First Ballot, October 24, 1987
Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome Mike Foster Democratic 24,183 (64%) Elected Anthony Guarisco, Jr. Democratic 13,599 (36%) Defeated
State Senator, 21st Senatorial District, 1991
Threshold > 50%
First Ballot, October 19, 1991
Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome Mike Foster Democratic 30,836 (85%) Elected Eddie Albares Independent 5,232 (15%) Defeated
Governor of Louisiana, 1995
Threshold > 50%
First Ballot, October 21, 1995
Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome Mike Foster Republican 385,267 (26%) Runoff Cleo Fields Democratic 280,921 (19%) Runoff Mary Landrieu Democratic 271,938 (18%) Defeated Buddy Roemer Republican 263,330 (18%) Defeated Others n.a. 274,440 (19%) Defeated
Second Ballot, November 18, 1995
Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome Mike Foster Republican 984,499 (64%) Elected Cleo Fields Democratic 565,861 (36%) Defeated
Governor of Louisiana, 1999
Threshold > 50%
First Ballot, October 23, 1999
Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome Mike Foster Republican 805,203 (62%) Elected Bill Jefferson Democratic 382,445 (30%) Defeated Others n.a. 107,557 (8%) Defeated
- State of Louisiana – Biography
- DuBos, Clancy. “Foster on Fire.” Gambit Weekly. October 3, 1995.
- Kurtz, David. “Mike’s Millions: He may be a working man, but Mike Foster certainly doesn’t have to.” New Orleans Magazine, May 1996.
- Reeves, Miriam. The Governors of Louisiana. Gretna: Pelican Publishing, 1998.
- Warner, Chris. “Mike Foster’s Legacy: What Will it Be?” State Business Louisiana. Winter 2002.
- Governor Murphy J. "Mike" Foster, Jr.
- ^ Halter, Jon C. (Sep 2002). "Speakers Recall Lessons Learned From Scouting". Scouting. Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scoutingmagazine.org/issues/0209/a-cele.html. Retrieved April 23, 2008.
- ^ "Johnny Gunter, "Young legacy to go beyond politics", April 10, 2010". Monroe News Star. http://www.thenewsstar.com/article/20100410/NEWS01/4100307/Young-legacy-to-go-beyond-politics. Retrieved April 13, 2010. [dead link]
- ^  -Master plan
- ^ -Sherbuurne Complex map
- ^ The Sunshine Foundation Inc
- ^ Winnfield, La – Old L&A Depot, LA Political Museum
Protected Areas of Louisiana FederalNational Marine Sanctuary:
Atchafalaya · Bayou Cocodrie · Bayou Sauvage · Bayou Teche · Big Branch Marsh · Black Bayou Lake · Bogue Chitto · Breton · Cameron Prairie · Cat Island · Catahoula · D'Arbonne · Delta · East Cove · Grand Cote · Handy Brake · Lacassine · Lake Ophelia · Mandalay · Red River · Shell Keys · Sabine · Tensas River · Upper Ouachita
Bayou Segnette · Bogue Chitto · Chemin-A-Haut · Chicot · Cypremort Point · Fairview-Riverside · Fontainebleau · Grand Isle · Hodges Gardens · Jimmie Davis · Lake Bistineau · Lake Bruin · Lake Claiborne · Lake D-Arbonne · Lake Fausse Pointe · North Toledo Bend · Palmetto Island · Poverty Point Reservoir · St. Bernard · Sam Houston Jones · South Toledo Bend · TickfawState Historic SitesState Preservation AreaState ForestsState Wildlife RefugesElmer's Island · Marsh Island · Rockefeller · St. Tammany · State · Terrebonne Barrier Islands · White Lake WetlandsWildlife management areasAcadiana Conservation Corridor · Atchafalaya Delta · Attakapas · Barataria Preserve · Bayou Macon · Bayou Pierre · Ben's Creek · Big Colewa Bayou · Big Lake · Biloxi · Bodcau · Boeuf · Bonnet Carre Spillway · Buckhorn · Camp Beauregard · Catahoula Lake · Clear Creek · Dewey Wills · Elbow Slough · Elm Hall · Floy Ward McElroy · Fort Polk · Grassy Lake · Hutchinson Creek · Indian Bayou · Jackson Bienville · Joyce · Lake Boeuf · Lake Ramsey Savannah · Little River · Loggy Bayou · Manchac · Marsh Bayou · Maurepas Swamp · Old River Control · Ouachita · Pass A Loutre · Pearl River · Peason Ridge · Pointe-aux-Chenes · Pomme de Terre · Red River · Russell Sage · Sabine Island · Sabine · Salvador/Timken · Sandy Hollow · Sherburne · Sicily Island Hills · Soda Lake · Spring Bayou · Tangipahoa Parish School Board · Thistlethwaite · Three Rivers · Tunica Hills · Union · Walnut Hill · West Bay
OtherPrivate Louisiana Senate Preceded by
Anthony Guarisco, Jr. (D)
State Senator, 21st Senatorial District
Murphy James "Mike" Foster, Jr. (D) switched (R)
John Siracusa (D)
Political offices Preceded by
Edwin Washington Edwards (D)
Governor of Louisiana
Murphy James "Mike" Foster, Jr. (R)
January 8, 1996 – January 12, 2004
Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D)
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