Woody Jenkins : biography
U.S. Representative Bob Livingston of New Orleans led the party as it rallied behind Jenkins. Support also came from Edward J. Steimel, former executive director of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. Jenkins ran first in the primary with 27 percent of the vote. HE and Landrieu then competed in the November general election. Former President George H. W. Bush came to campaign on Jenkins’ behalf, along with Senators John S. McCain of Arizona, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, and Connie Mack, III, of Florida. Governor Foster and former Governors David C. Treen, Buddy Roemer, and the Democrat Jimmie Davis all endorsed Jenkins.
On Election Day, television network exit polls showed Jenkins leading, 51-49 percent. Jenkins’ lead held up throughout the evening, but a late surge of votes from heavily Democratic New Orleans, as well as Bill Clinton’s strong performance in the state, put Landrieu ahead by 5,788 votes out of 1.7 million cast.
It was the closest U.S. Senate race in the presidential election year of 1996, and one of the closest in Louisiana history. Jenkins carried thirty-eight parishes and exclusive of Orleans parish, he secured 53 percent of the vote. New Orleans gave Landrieu a 100,000 vote margin. The final returns showed Landrieu with 852,945 votes and Jenkins with 847,157 votes.
Jenkins led Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole by more than 134,000 votes statewide. Jenkins’ vote total, as of 2004, was the third highest by a Republican running in a statewide race in Louisiana, topped since only by former Governor Foster and current U.S. Senator David Vitter.
After losing this election, Jenkins contested the results.Armbrister, Trevor. "" Reader’s Digest. August 1997, p. 91 He claimed that at least 7,454 "phantom votes" were cast in 4,000 precincts in the state in 1996. The so-called phantom votes were alleged to have occurred when more votes were cast on the voting machines than voters who signed up to vote in that precinct on election day. Jenkins also claimed that more than thirty thousand signatures of voters on election day did not match their signatures on voter registration cards. Claims were also made that individuals were hauled multiple times to various precincts in New Orleans to cast votes without being required to sign the register. The Jenkins forces alleged that buses drove through the inner city and offered payments to anyone who would vote. Moreover, they claimed that further investigations proved that about 1,300 votes were cast by voters whose registered addresses were abandoned public housing units.
Jenkins took his case to the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, claiming that Landrieu’s 5,788-vote margin was made possible only by fraudulent votes in New Orleans. In a hearing before the Senate Rules Committee carried live on C-SPAN, Jenkins charged massive election fraud. He petitioned the Senate to unseat Landrieu and to order a new election—and on an 8-7 party-line vote the committee agreed to set up a probe.
Only a month into the probe, however, Democrats claimed that Thomas "Papa Bear" Miller, a detective hired by Jenkins’ campaign to investigate claims of fraud, had coached witnesses to claim they had participated in election fraud. The Jenkins campaign denied the charge and declared it to be a Democratic attempt to distract attention from the massive vote-buying and election fraud they said had occurred in the election. Miller had several felony convictions on his record, including a guilty plea to attempted murder. Miller was killed in a drive- by shooting in May 2003. The Louisiana Weekly, May 26, 2003 The Democrats walked out of the probe in protest, but the deliberations continued.
In October 1997, after a ten-month investigation, the committee allowed Landrieu’s victory to stand. It concluded that while there were numerous irregularities, it was impossible to determine if they were egregious enough to change the outcome.
In 2004, Jenkins and Dan Richey, his long-term friend and former legislative colleague, helped to organize David Vitter’s grassroots campaign in 2004, when Vitter, then a member of the U.S. House, became the first Republican elected from Louisiana to the United States Senate since Reconstruction.