|Member of the |
Louisiana Public Service Commission
from the 5th district
|Member of the Louisiana Senate|
from the 36th district
December 1976 - December 2002
Foster Lonnie Campbell Jr.
January 6, 1947
Shreveport, Louisiana, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Paula Wright (divorced)|
|Children||6 (1 stepchild)|
|Education||Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge|
Northwestern State University (BA)
Foster Lonnie Campbell Jr. (born January 6, 1947), is an American politician and member of the Democratic Party from the U.S. state of Louisiana. Since 2003, he has been a member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission. He served in the Louisiana State Senate from 1976 to 2002.
He was an unsuccessful candidate for governor in the 2007 election against Republican Bobby Jindal. He ran unsuccessfully for the United States House of Representatives for Louisiana's 4th congressional district three times: in 1980, 1988, and 1990. In 2016, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the open U.S. Senate seat vacated by incumbent Republican David Vitter.
In 2012, Campbell became chairman of the five-member Public Service Commission. He was re-elected to a third term on the commission in 2014.
Campbell was born in Shreveport, the son of Foster Campbell Sr. and the former Rubye Grigsby of Bossier City, both deceased. He attended Bossier High School in Bossier City. Later, he graduated from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. He also attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. From 1972 to 1975, he was a school teacher in Haughton, Louisiana and an agricultural products salesman. Campbell owns two insurance agencies, both of which are located in Bossier City.
Campbell has six children from his first wife, Paula Wright, from whom he is divorced: Zach, Peter, Kate, Nicholas, Mary Claire, and Sarah Elizabeth. Zach died in Dallas, Texas at the age of thirty-seven. Campbell resides with his second wife, Gwen, in Elm Grove in south Bossier Parish, where he works as a farmer and cattleman.
In 1975, Campbell was elected to the Senate to succeed the retiring Conservative Democrat Harold Montgomery of Doyline in Webster Parish. In a runoff election, called the general election in Louisiana, Campbell handily defeated former Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, John Sidney Garrett of Haynesville in northern Claiborne Parish, who failed in a political comeback attempt. During his Senate service, Campbell was often allied with Governor Edwin Washington Edwards and chaired the Select Committee on Consumer Affairs.
Campbell was sometimes at odds with Republican Governor David C. Treen, whom he claimed was aiming vetoes at projects in Campbell's senatorial district, including at one point a new roof for the Webster Parish Library in Minden, which years later built a new structure. In 1982, Treen rejected funding for an industrial pact sought by Campbell. In hopes of enticing labor-intensive industries to relocate to Louisiana, Campbell proposed to earmark $30 million from the oil and natural gas surplus trust fund. In 1983, Treen signed into law Campbell's bill to allow members of electric co-ops to come under Public Service Commission regulation. Under the law which Treen accepted after much wrangling, 20 percent of the membership must take part in any election in regard to enabling PSC jurisdiction over a utility company.
In 1985, Campbell as a state senator lobbied Democratic Governor Edwin Edwards, who was serving his third term at the time, to establish a savings account to support the newly established Bossier Educational Excellence Fund (BEEF). As a former teacher, Campbell proposed that the Bossier Parish school system share in tax revenue from the Louisiana Downs horse racetrack. The revenues were already being divided by other local governmental entities. Edwards said that the program should be called BEEF for the Wendy's restaurant refrain at the time: "Where's the Beef?" By 2018, what began as $500,000 in tax funds from Louisiana Downs had grown, with the addition of casino revenues, to a $50 million investment.
Ron Gomez, a member of the Louisiana House from Lafayette and at the time a Democrat prior to later switching parties, describes Campbell, when he was a state senator, as "always having some populist, usually anti-business legislation moving through the process. Persistent is his middle name."
In 1992, State Senate President Sammy Nunez of Chalmette appointed Campbell as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Three years later, Nunez removed Campbell from the chairmanship of a committee established to consider a proposed oil and natural gas processing tax on foreign energy imports. Campbell criticized Nunez: "As a legislator for thirty years, he supported billions of dollars in new taxes, including taxes on food, drugs, and utilities. He finally found a tax he doesn't like." Nunez replied that the processing tax could cost the state critically needed jobs.
Over the years, Campbell easily won reelection to his Senate seat. In the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 24, 1987, for instance, he polled 11,080 votes (70.2 percent) over two Democrats and a Republican opponent. Democrat (later Republican) Garland Mack Garrett, an oil company owner from Springhill born in 1942, trailed with 3,400 votes (21.5 percent). Ivan J. Edwards received 474 votes (3 percent), and Republican William F. "Bill" Lott, drew the remaining 835 ballots (5.3 percent)  In 1995, his opponent, Webster Parish educator Ralph Lamar Rentz, a perennial candidate from Minden, died of a kidney ailment two days before the election. With Rentz's death, Campbell withdrew from his automatic victory, and a second election was called. Campbell then polled 21,652 votes (68 percent) to defeat three Republican candidates, Neil Fox, Roy Underwood, and Helaine George, who was a former unsuccessful candidate for the state House of Representatives against Democrat Everett Doerge. After this victory, Campbell eyed a run for the Senate presidency. Coincidentally, the day before Campbell's 1995 reelection, his predecessor in the office, Harold Montgomery, died. Campbell did not win the Senate presidency, however, the position went to neighboring colleague Randy L. Ewing of Quitman in Jackson Parish, who endorsed Campbell in the latter's 1995 state Senate race.
Campbell was an early critic of Republican Governor Mike Foster. He chastised the governor for refusal to keep schools open during the summer of 1996 and for other extended hours on the grounds that remediation services were needed in light of poor test scores for fourth graders. He also opposed Foster's proposed tax relief for the oil industry.
Campbell ran unsuccessfully for the United States House of Representatives in 1980, having lost out to future Governor Buddy Roemer, a Bossier Parish native who unseated the one-term incumbent, Buddy Leach of Leesville in Vernon Parish in western Louisiana. Other unsuccessful candidates in that race were former State Representative Jimmy Wilson of Vivian, who had lost to Leach by a narrow margin in 1978, State Representative Forrest Dunn of Shreveport, former State Senator Cecil K. Carter Jr. of Shreveport, and Rogers M. "Mickey" Prestridge, the municipal judge in Bossier City.
In 1988, Campbell narrowly lost the congressional race to a former Roemer aide, Republican Jim McCrery, a native and resident of Shreveport who was reared in Leesville. Roemer, however, was not supporting McCrery, but instead the Democrat Stanley R. Tiner, the former editor of the since defunct Shreveport Journal, a native of Webster Parish, and United States Marine veteran of the Vietnam War. During that special election campaign, triggered by Roemer's resignation to become governor, Campbell was seriously injured in a single vehicle car crash when he drove the wrong way down an unfinished, unopened section of Interstate 49 near Natchitoches. His car dropped more than a foot in a section where concrete was missing from the roadway. The accident left him blind in his right eye and with several broken facial bones. Campbell missed several days of campaigning and was forced to apologize for being on the closed highway: "I was wrong; that's all you can say. I made a mistake, and I'm paying for it."
In that 1988 race, Campbell was challenged about his support for Governor Edwin Edwards' $1 billion tax hike. Campbell said that he voted for less than a third of the tax increases Edwards sought: "I told him to cut the budget, and he didn't." Campbell ultimately lost to McCrery by some 1,500 votes, 50.2-49.8 percent.
In 1990, Campbell made this third and final race for the U.S. House, but he was again defeated by McCrery, who solidified his hold on the district. (McCrery retired in January 2009 and was succeeded by the Republican John C. Fleming, a physician and businessman from Minden, who held the seat for eight years.)
In 2002, Campbell was elected from District 5 to the Public Service Commission, the statewide regulatory body in charge of public utilities and the petroleum industry. He narrowly unseated incumbent Donald Lynn "Don" Owen, a native Oklahoman and a former news anchorman for KSLA-TV, the CBS affiliate in Shreveport. Campbell prevailed with 123,749 votes (50.7 percent) to Owen's 120,413 (49.3 percent).
Campbell holds periodic town hall meetings for constituents to voice their concerns, mostly about matters of utility service. At a particular gathering in Natchitoches in 2003, Alice Louise Johnson Bolton (1921-2014) renewed her long-term quest for telephone service at her rural residence in Mink, a hamlet in Natchitoches Parish, which was repeatedly bypassed when it came to telephone lines and installation. Bolton became a short-lived celebrity for her outspoken campaign and was featured in several news articles, including one in The New York Times and another in The Independent in London. Telephone service finally came to Mink in February 2005; Bolton's first caller was then governor Kathleen Blanco. Mink is believed to have been one of the last places in the United States to have obtained land phone lines but at great cost to the phone company.
In the November 4, 2014, primary election, Campbell won his third term on the PSC by having handily defeated Republican Keith Gates of Winnfield, 169,097 (61.5 percent) to 105,916 (38.5 percent). Campbell narrowly won his home parish of Bossier and lost only two of the twenty-four parishes in the district, Union and Gates's Winn Parish.
Campbell became involved in the District 1 PSC race in suburban New Orleans in 2014. He supported a losing candidate, Forest Gabriel Bradley-Wright (born 1977), an alternative energy advocate and a former Democrat and supporter of U.S. President Barack H. Obama, switched parties to challenge incumbent Republican Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, with whom Campbell is often at odds on the commission. This campaign divided the PSC members. Clyde C. Holloway, a conservative member from Rapides Parish, endorsed Skrmetta, whom Holloway considered an independent conservative with whom he usually agrees on issues facing the commission. Holloway noted that in the past commissioners had avoided becoming involved in their colleagues' campaigns.
In November 2006, Campbell informed the press that he was considering challenging incumbent Governor Kathleen Blanco, a fellow Democrat, in the 2007 primary election. He subsequently toured the state, raised money, and hired political consultant George Kennedy, who has been described by LAPolitics.com as "the state's hottest political consultant." The centerpiece of Campbell's platform was a proposal to repeal the excise tax levied by the state on domestic oil production and replace it with a 6 percent processing fee on all oil and natural gas that passes through the state. Campbell estimated that this fee would raise $5.5 billion per year, enough to eliminate the state's income tax with nearly $2 billion per year left for discretionary spending.
On March 19, 2007, in a press conference held in New Orleans, Campbell officially announced his gubernatorial candidacy. The next day, in apparent response to opinion polls showing that she would be unlikely to win re-election over Jindal, whom she had defeated in 2003, Blanco announced that she would not seek a second term as governor. Former U.S. Senator John Breaux, a Democrat, was expected to announce his candidacy, but he bowed out on April 13. On April 26, another gubernatorial contender, Walter Boasso, the Republican state senator from St. Bernard Parish in south Louisiana, announced that he was returning to the Democratic Party. Campbell faced Jindal and Boasso in the nonpartisan blanket primary as well as a liberal independent, John Georges of New Orleans. When asked to cite some of the differences between him and front-runner Jindal, Campbell says, "I understand rural people and agriculture. He has no idea what's going on in rural communities and agriculture. I work with black people very well. I don't think that he has a lot of communication with the black community."
In the gubernatorial race, Campbell polled 161,425 votes (12 percent) and won two parishes: Red River and Bienville, both near Shreveport. He lost his home parish of Bossier Parish (20 percent) to the successful Republican candidate, Bobby Jindal (60 percent).
Had he been elected governor, Campbell would have been the fifth public service commissioner to move into the state's top position. Previously, Huey P. Long Jr., Jimmie Davis, John McKeithen, and Blanco were public service commissioners.
Campbell was a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate vacated in January 2017 by David Vitter. The primary election coincided with the presidential general election. Campbell's opponents included Republican U.S. Representatives John Fleming of Campbell's own Louisiana's 4th congressional district and Charles Boustany of Louisiana's 3rd congressional district, State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy, former U.S. Representative Joseph Cao of Louisiana's 1st congressional district, and Colonel Rob Maness of Madisonville, a leader in the Tea Party movement. Another Democrat, Caroline Fayard of New Orleans, also ran for the Senate seat, but Campbell carried the endorsement of Governor John Bel Edwards, for whom he has been an advisor and for whom Campbell campaigned in the 2015 election against Senator Vitter, who subsequently announced his retirement from politics after his loss in the governor's race.
The race received national attention: Campbell was invited for interviews on MSNBC and CNN. Campbell faced Treasurer John Kennedy in the December 10 runoff contest; Kennedy, boosted by campaign appearances from U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, won the runoff contest by twenty-one points.
THE INDEPENDENT WEEKLY 8/29/2007
|Louisiana State Senate|
| Member of the Louisiana Senate
from the 36th district
| Member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission
from the 5th district
|Party political offices|