Woody Jenkins

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Woody Jenkins : biography

January 3, 1947 –

Jenkins and Daniel Duggan started a community weekly newspaper called the Central City News in 2005. In 2006, they started the Zachary Post. In 2007, Duggan’s company acquired the South Baton Rouge Journal. Jenkins served as editor of all three papers. In 2008, Duggan and Jenkins dissolved their partnership, with Duggan assuming ownership of the Zachary Post and Jenkins ownership of the Central City News. The South Baton Rouge Journal suspended publication. In 2012, Jenkins resumed the South Baton Rouge Journal under a new name, the Capital City News. In 2010, the Louisiana Press Association awarded the Central City News first place in the state for General Excellence and in 2011, the LPA awarded Jenkins its Freedom of Information Award.

On May 18, 2008, Jenkins was elected as Louisiana’s representative on the Platform Committee at the Republican National Convention. In 2012, he elected to a four-year term as Republican Party parish chairman for East Baton Rouge Parish.

In May 2012, small business owners in Baton Rouge formed the new Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge Parish. The group is an affiliate of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Jenkins was elected chairman of the group.

Legislative career

Jenkins had been a Young Republican in high school. At seventeen, he was a page for State Representatives Morley A. Hudson and Taylor W. O’Hearn, the first Republicans elected to the Louisiana House since Reconstruction. However, in 1971, he switched to the Democratic Party to run for a Baton Rouge-area seat in the state House. Even though Louisiana was becoming increasingly friendly to Republicans nationally, Democrats still fully dominated at the state level. At the time of Jenkins’ election to the state House, 104 of 105 members of the chamber and 38 of 39 members of the state Senate, elected in 1968, were Democrats.

Jenkins faced five older opponents in his first race but walked door to door and was elected with 67 percent in the Democratic primary and was unopposed in the general election. (Louisiana’s nonpartisan blanket primary was not enacted until 1975.) He was sworn in at the age of twenty-four, just a few days before he graduated from law school.

During his 28-year tenure in the Louisiana House from 1972 to 2000, Jenkins authored more than three hundred major bills that became law, including the Free Enterprise Education Act, which requires all high school students in Louisiana to complete a one-semester course on the free enterprise system; the Private Education Deregulation Act, which deregulated private and Christian schools and legalized home schooling in Louisiana; the Teacher Proficiency Act, which requires all new public school teachers in Louisiana to pass the National Teachers Examination; the TOPS scholarship program, under which more than 100,000 Louisiana students have been granted full college scholarships; the Concealed Carry Act, and the Shoot the Burglar Act.

While in the legislature, Jenkins organized and served as chairman of the Conservative Caucus in the state house, which had begun with only four members in 1972. By 1980, a caucus member, John Hainkel of New Orleans, was elected Speaker. Jenkins served as chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations.

1996 Senate campaign and aftermath

In 1996, Jenkins ran for the Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Bennett Johnston. Although five other Republicans ran against him in the nonpartisan blanket primary, Jenkins was endorsed as the party’s "official" candidate at the Republican state convention. He also faced four Democrats and five independents. The field included Attorney General Richard Ieyoub, former Democratic state Treasurer Mary Landrieu of New Orleans, Congressman Jimmy Hayes (a recent convert to the GOP), former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke, and two wealthy businessmen, state Representative Chuck McMains of Baton Rouge and William "Bill" Linder of New Orleans, the brother of Republican U.S. Representative John Linder from Georgia.