Gomez in Political Hall of Fame
Published 5:23 pm Thursday, February 28, 2019
Ron Gomez of Lafayette may be one of the most talented individuals ever inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame. Gomez and five other well-known figures celebrated their induction last weekend in Lafayette.
Tyler Bridges of The Advocate introduced his readers to the six in a pre-induction report. Jay Dardenne, state commissioner of administration and master of ceremonies, called the induction ceremony “one of the great nights for politics in Louisiana.” Bridges talked about there being “back slaps, hugs, warm reminiscences and laughter — especially laughter…”
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The other five inductees are Paul Hardy of St. Martin Parish, Raymond Blanco of Lafayette, Richard Zuschlag, owner of Acadian Ambulance, Edwin Lombard of the New Orleans-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeal and the late Marion Edwards, brother of former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards.
Gomez, Hardy and Lombard are the politicians among the six. Blanco has been a lifelong strategist for his wife, former Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, and Marion Edwards had a similar role for his brother.
Kathleen Blanco said, “Raymond loves the campaign. He doesn’t like governance. During a campaign, he could always see something coming at us before it arrived. So he already had a strategy to block it or take advantage of it. It was that football mind of his.”
The late John Maginnis said of Marion Edwards, “Through the 13 elections (Edwin) had won, from city councilman to governor, there was one indispensable constant: his brother, his alter ego.”
Bridges said Zuschlag is a political contributor who got involved in politics in 1979 “when his company was growing by leaps and bounds.” Hardy is a former state senator and secretary of state. In 1987, he was elected as the first Republican lieutenant governor since Reconstruction.
Lombard was a civil rights activist and young lawyer. In 1974, he was elected clerk of New Orleans Criminal District Court, a post he held for 29 years until he began serving on the appeal court.
Gomez became well known in Lafayette when in 1960 he became the play-by-play announcer at football and basketball games for what is now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Bridges said he also owned three local radio stations.
I got to know Gomez when he was elected to the state House in 1979 where he served three terms. He was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and was named secretary of the Department of Natural Resources during the Buddy Roemer administration.
Gomez, who is now 84, wrote his autobiography in 2000 titled, “My Name Is Ron and I Am a Recovering Legislator.” He later wrote “Pelican Games,” a successful novel based on political and newspaper figures in Calcasieu Parish.
In his autobiography, Gomez sized up political figures well. He said Edwin Edwards could have done more than any one person — including the legendary Huey P. Long — to change the course of the state’s political scene because of his charisma, intelligence and communication skills. However, Gomez said Edwards squandered those assets by governing to reward his friends and supporters.
Gomez talked about why the talented Roemer rubbed so many people the wrong way. He described Roemer as “one of the most intelligent, stubborn, humorous, dour, logical, unpredictable, charming, cold, challenging, distant, interesting and exasperating people I have ever known or worked with.”
Arturo Candida was a 24-year-old investigative reporter in Gomez’ political novel. Gomez told me his Candida character was based on the late Hector San Miguel, an American Press investigative reporter who was one of the best in the country.
Candida was lured away from Houston, Gomez said, by John “Black Jack” Daniels, an American Press columnist noted for scathing commentary. Something about that Daniels fellow sounds awfully familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it.
Gomez was a big help to me when I published 100 of my columns in a book in 2003 titled, “Positively Beaming: A Lifetime of Newspaper Columns.” Gomez helped me find a publisher and kept me informed throughout the process.
Gomez introduced each chapter in his autobiography with a notable quote from a legislator.
Former Rep. Thomas Wright of Jena said, “I know that people in New Orleans take a keen interest in the political process. Some of them vote two or three times in the same election.”
Former Rep. John Travis said, “I can’t believe that we’re going to let a majority of the people decide what is best for this state. That’s not right.”
Current state Sen. Francis Thompson, who was a House member at the time, said, “I know you’re worried about being a hypocrite for voting for this, but that’s our job.”
I thought these comical examples of legislative wisdom might be an appropriate way to wrap things up.
EARL LONG EXHIBIT — Former Louisiana Gov. Earl K. Long is featured in an exhibit at the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame and Museum.