Nathan Stubbs

Leach looks to take helm of state Democratic party

by Nathan Stubbs

With the deadline quickly approaching, former Congressman Buddy Leach is the only applicant thus far to succeed Chris Whittington as head of the state Democratic Party. Interim chairman Michael McHale tells Gannett's Mike Hasten that he expects at least one more candidate but declined to suggest who it might be. McHale says he will not run for the post. Party officials will vote for the new chairman at a central committee meeting on Jan. 30.

Whittington, a Baton Rouge attorney, resigned last month to focus on his expanding law business. He served as party chairman since 2005, when he took over from Shaw Group CEO Jim Bernhard. Whittington overcame several attempts from party insiders to oust him from the chairmanship in the wake of Democratic losses in the 2007 and 2008 elections.

Leach, 75, served one term as Congressman in Louisiana's Fourth District from 1978 to 1980. He has also served in the state House and ran unsuccesfully for state treasurer in 1987 and governor in 2003. In 2006, the Democratic party unanimously elected him as national committeman. The Leach family has recently resided in Lake Charles, running the extremely profitable family businesses, Sweet Lake Land and Oil Co. and the North American Land Co. Ironically, earlier this month, the Leach-owned Grosse Savanne Waterfowl and Wildlife Lodge in Lake Charles hosted Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's "fun hunt" fundraiser.