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Thomas D. Wright

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Preceded by  Stephen L. Gunn
Political party  Democratic
Occupation  Businessman
Name  Thomas "Tommy"
Succeeded by  Billy Chandler
Residence  Jena, Louisiana
Religion  Methodist
Born  January 16, 1956 (age 59) (1956-01-16)

Oral History of Thomas D. Wright

Thomas David "Tommy" Wright (born January 16, 1956) is a Jena (La Salle Parish) Democrat who was forced to resign from the Louisiana legislature early in 2006 as part of a plea bargain regarding an obscenity charge. Wright represented District 22 in the north central section of the state. The district encompasses all of Grant and La Salle parishes, most of Winn Parish, and a precinct of Rapides Parish.


Misdemeanor obscenity charges

Wright was charged with an obscenity violation at Lake Buhlow in Pineville in Rapides Parish. Wright and another individual, Charles Locher, II, were arrested in 2004, when a Red River Waterway Commission park ranger said that he walked into a public restroom and found the men engaged in sexual activities. Wright and Locker denied the charges since their arrests and grand jury indictments. The two initially pleaded not guilty. Wright claimed that he had dropped his pants as the ranger entered the restroom and that the ranger misinterpreted the situation. Locker denied impropriety and said that he did not know Wright. The two changed their pleas to guilty on misdemeanor charges. Wright pleaded guilty to flight from an officer, and Locker pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal mischief, according to Harold A. Van Dyke, III, the first assistant district attorney in Rapides Parish.

Wright's background

When he entered the legislature in 1996, Wright listed his occupation as a "teacher" and a "businessman." He cited a business administration degree from the former Northeast Louisiana University (now the University of Louisiana at Monroe). He also did graduate studies at the same institution. In 1977, he formed Wright Real Estate in Jena. He was a Pontiac dealer from 1979 to 1980. He was a member of the Jena City Council from 1982 until he became state representative in 1996. He holds membership in the La Salle Economic Development Council, the Catahoula Lake chapter of Ducks Unlimited, the Masonic Lodge, and the Methodist Church.

Wright's legislative years

Wright was first elected to the state House in the fall of 1995 to succeed the Independent Representative Stephen L. Gunn (born 1946) of Montgomery, also in Grant Parish. He defeated fellow Democrat Clifford Zell in the nonpartisan blanket primary. Gunn, a businessman, served only one term and did not seek reelection. He became the mayor of Montgomery in 2002. In 1999, Wright defeated the Republican Ira Preuett in the primary. Wright received 7,487 (52 percent) to Preuett's 6,823 (48 percent).

In 2002, Wright raised funds in a bid for the Fifth Congressional District seat but in the end did not list his name on the ballot. The seat became open when incumbent Republican John Cooksey of Monroe ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. Democrat Rodney Alexander, later Republican, won the position.

In 2003, Wright led several opponents in the primary, including former Pineville Mayor Floyd W. Smith, Jr., then of Winn Parish. In the general election, Wright dispatched Republican Tony K. Owens (born 1960), also of Jena but then of Winnfield. Wright received 6,964 votes (52 percent) to Owens' 6,465 (48 percent) in the 76 precincts in the district. The percent breakdown in 2003 was identical to that in 1999.

Wright was succeeded in office by his fellow Democrat, Billy Chandler (born 1938), a Grant Parish School Board member from the village of Dry Prong. Chandler said in his victory statement that it was clear that many voters in the district were unhappy with Wright's controversies. As the newest legislator in Baton Rouge, Chandler vowed to look after the interests of the "little man". Chandler, like Wright three years earlier, also defeated Owens to win the position in the April 29 special election runoff contest.

Dismissal from the Jena trade school

Meanwhile, Wright was dismissed from his position at the Jena campus of the Alexandria-based Louisiana Technical College after he was found to have used paid sick leave to attend legislative sessions. Wright then sued the state for wrongful termination. He argued that his sick leave requests were approved with bona fide medical excuses. Wright accused his fellow Democrat, Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, of ordering his firing because he had angered technical college administrators when he questioned certain practices in the system.

Wright began his career with the vocational technical system as a business instructor in August 1988. Prior to his dismissal, he was a tech prep coordinator on the Jena campus. The position involved his acting as a mediator between public schools and the vocational-technical schools/community colleges. Early in 2006, Wright failed to obtain legal reinstatement to his job with the technical college.


Thomas D. Wright Wikipedia

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