Roemer’s Father: Beware of Gov. Edwards With AM-Kentucky Governor
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ Gov. Edwin Edwards, who conceded his office to reform candidate Buddy Roemer after finishing second in last month’s primary, is anything but a lame duck, says Roemer’s father, a former top official in the Edwards administration.
During the week after Roemer, a congressman from northwest Louisiana, became governor-elect, a transition team began its promised examination of every nook and cranny of state government, and legislative leaders under Edwards began feeling the heat.
At the same time, Edwards lifted a 5 percent budget cut on three departments - sparking warnings of an imminent budget crisis for the new governor - and took his ire out on the media, which he earlier said had conspired to push for Roemer’s election.
Charles E. Roemer II, the governor-elect’s father and Edwards’ commissioner of administration during his first two terms from 1972 to 1980, said his ex- boss hasn’t given up his dream of a historic fourth term in the governor’s mansion.
Edwards made his intention clear when he conceded a Nov. 21 runoff, the senior Roemer said.
″He laid the battleground clearly. Instead of having four weeks of hell to go through and getting scarred and beat up and exhausted, he’s given them enough rope to run with and says, ‘I’ll be back in four years if Buddy does not stand up to his promises.’
″To me, that means what it says. I know Edwin,″ said Roemer, who was convicted in 1981 in the federal ″Brilab″ investigation of government kickbacks and stayed out of his son’s campaign for governor.
Asked if Edwards would be working behind the scenes to make life difficult for the new governor, Roemer said, ″Is the pope still a Catholic?″
On Friday, Roemer’s representatives announced that former federal budget director David Stockman would come to Louisiana and make recommendations concerning the state budget, which has accumulated a three-year deficit of up to $600 million by some counts.
The state has been short of revenue since the collapse of oil and gas prices.
Roemer, who promised to install new leadership in all aspects of government, said he favored the replacement of House Speaker John Alario Jr. and Senate President Samuel Nunez.
″This election is not some esoteric game. It’s about leadership and change and I want to make sure the new leadership is part of the change,″ Roemer said. ″I will do everything to accomplish that change - everything.″
On Thursday, Edwards signed an executive order lifting a planned 5 percent budget cut for the state health and human resources department, the corrections department and the state’s revenue and taxation agency.
Edwards had ordered the 5 percent cut for most categories of the budget in an effort to reduce possible red ink. Administration officials said the rescission would add about $40 million in spending.
Roemer refused to criticize Edwards directly and said he planned to meet this week with the governor.
But Steve Cochran, a member of Roemer’s transition team, said the budget- cut retrenchment represented ″money we can’t afford to spend.″
The elder Roemer, who asked last week that his Brilab conviction be overturned, said that if his son can get on a grip on the state’s budget situation and gain the backing of the Legislature quickly, he should be a success as governor.
″He’ll make a good governor if he can get through the first year without emasculating himself,″ the father said.