|Member of the |
Louisiana Public Service Commission
from the 4th district
January 1, 2017
|Charles W. DeWitt, Jr. (interim for Clyde C. Holloway)|
|Chair of the Louisiana Republican Party|
Michael Gordon Francis
November 27, 1946
Jena, Louisiana, U.S.
Michael Gordon Francis (born November 27, 1946) is a Crowley businessman who is a member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission. He won the right to succeed Clyde C. Holloway, who did not seek reelection and died during the ensuing campaign to choose Holloway's successor on the commission.
Earlier from 1994 to 2000, Francis was the chair of the Republican Party in Louisiana. A staunch fiscal and social conservative, Francis was an unsuccessful candidate for Secretary of State of Louisiana in the special election held on September 30, 2006. Francis indicated that he would seek the position again in the nonpartisan blanket primary on October 20, 2007, but he failed to file his qualification papers. "I will work to ensure the right to vote. I will fight to stop voter fraud, vote buying, and vote stealing," Francis vowed in his campaign for secretary of state.[attribution needed]
As the Republican state chairman, Francis challenged the political order, including an effort to unseat most of Governor Edwin Washington Edwards' floor leaders in the Louisiana State Senate in the 1995 elections. In the 1996 Louisiana presidential caucus won by the journalist and commentator Patrick J. Buchanan, Francis supported then U.S. Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who soon left the race and deferred to the eventual nominee, former Senator Robert J. Dole of Kansas.
Francis was mentioned[by whom?] as a potential Republican candidate for the District 4 seat on the Public Service Commission, which was filled in a special election on April 4, 2008, to replace Dale Sittig of Eunice, who resigned to become director of the Louisiana Offshore Terminal Authority. Ultimately, the Republican Clyde Holloway of Rapides Parish won the remaining nineteen months of Sittig's term.
Born in Jena in La Salle Parish in North Louisiana, Francis became wealthy in the oil processing business from his base in Acadiana. His company is based in Crowley in Acadia Parish, a rice-growing region in southwestern Louisiana, which produced two of the state's political giants of the late 20th century, Democrats Edwin Edwards and John B. Breaux. Francis also has a residence in Lafayette.
Francis is the chief executive officer for Francis Drilling Fluids, Ltd. FDF, one of the oldest drilling fluids companies on the Gulf Coast. He employs more than 350 people at locations in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. The corporate headquarters is located in Crowley.
When Republican Governor Murphy J. "Mike" Foster, Jr., named Democratic state Senator Cecil Picard as education secretary, a special election was held on August 24, 1996, to begin the process of choosing Picard's state senate successor. State Representative Gerald Theunissen, a Democrat who later switched to Republican affiliation, led the contest with 7,086 votes (29.5 percent). Francis, still state party chairman and the only Republican among the six candidates, finished in second place with 6,112 votes (25.5 percent). Four other Democrats shared the remaining but crucial 45 percent of the ballots cast. In the runoff election on September 21, Theunissen defeated Francis, 20,320 (55.7 percent) to 16,172 (44.3 percent).
The secretary of state is Louisiana's top elections officer. The office maintains corporation and government records.
"We have had a lot of criticism about professional politicians in this state. ... People are crying out for change. Most are demanding it. ... Our problems are not Republican or Democrat problems. They are all our problems, and we need to face them together. We need sound business principles in Baton Rouge and not more politics. To attract business, we need leaders who know how to talk business, not politics," Francis said.[attribution needed]
Francis had promised, if elected, that he would take a business approach to the secretary of state's office and work to create jobs and to ensure "clean elections," for which he noted Louisiana has often been lacking.[attribution needed]
Francis lost the race to fellow Republican Jay Dardenne, an attorney and then state senator from Baton Rouge, now the state Commissioner of Administration. The election was held to finish the fifteen months remaining in the term of Republican W. Fox McKeithen, who died in the summer of 2005. Al Ater, a former Democratic member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from Ferriday in Concordia Parish, had succeeded to the position because he was McKeithen's first deputy. The special election was held in conjunction with the nonpartisan blanket primary for other offices contested in 2006.
Francis ran third in the race, based largely on his support in mostly rural and small-town parishes in his native north Louisiana. He received 26 percent of the vote. Democratic state Senator Francis C. Heitmeier polled 28 percent, and Dardenne led the field with 30 percent. None of the other four candidates had more than 9 percent.
Dardenne was hence scheduled to face a runoff election with Heitmeier of New Orleans. In the meantime, Francis announced that he would not support Dardenne in the second balloting but would run again for the position in 2007. Heitmeier pulled out of the race and left Dardenne unopposed. Heitmeier and Dardenne were term-limited in the state Senate and ineligible to have sought reelection in 2007. Heitmeier was succeeded by his brother, David Heitmeier, a New Orleans optometrist.
Francis finally won an election when in 2016 he secured a majority in a three-candidate field to select Clyde Holloway's successor on the Public Service Commission. Francis received 175,274 votes (54 percent) to 43,106 (13 percent) for his fellow Republican businessman, Reldon R. Owens of Alexandria, and 108,243 (33 percent) for the Democrat Mary Leach Werner (born January 1968) of Lake Charles, the older daughter of former U.S. Representative Buddy Leach of Louisiana's 4th congressional district. Governor John Bel Edwards appointed his fellow Democrat, former state House Speaker Charles W. DeWitt, Jr., of Rapides Parish to fill the two months and ten days left in Holloway's term. Francis assumes the position on January 1, 2017.
Dud Lastrapes of Lafayette
| Louisiana Republican Party State Chairman
Michael Gordon "Mike" Francis of Crowley
Chuck McMains of Baton Rouge (2000)
Charles W. DeWitt, Jr. (interim for Clyde C. Holloway)
| District 4 member of the
Louisiana Public Service Commission
Michael Gordon "Mike" Francis