Former Louisiana Gov. Charles “Buddy” Roemer returned to the spotlight after 16 years out of politics, announcing his candidacy for the presidency yesterday in Hanover, then spending the day at Dartmouth, where he spoke to students and delivered a public lecture in the college’s “Leading Voices in Politics and Policy” series.
“I couldn’t think of a better place to start,” Roemer said of making his first campaign stop at the College, after declaring his candidacy at the Hanover Inn before a small national and local press contingent, and in front of his three sisters, brother, and campaign-worker son, Dakota Roemer. The younger Roemer said he and his father were up until about 4 a.m., working on the announcement speech.
In his public lecture and in a class with students, the former governor—who also served four terms in Congress, through 1988—said he would make trade and campaign spending centerpieces of his run for the presidency.
“I am discounted as a presidential candidate. It’s not because I’m dumb. It’s not because my ideas don’t resonate in America. It’s because I don’t have any money,” the Republican told students, explaining that he won’t take donations over $100.
Roemer said he’s unhappy at the state of the country and has been considering a bid for the presidency for several months, after years spent as a banker in Louisiana.
“I’m not a Wall Street guy, I’m a Main Street guy,” he said. He said the middle class “is in trouble. I’m one of them. It’s why I stepped out of my private life.”
He said existing free trade policies are harming the United States, as it tries to competes with overseas manufacturers that use child labor and pay poor wages.
“It’s very fair to ask our trade partners to trade fair. Fair trade’s when both nations win, not just one,” he said.
Roemer served in Congress as a conservative Democrat who often broke ranks with his party to vote with President Reagan. After he left Congress, he was elected governor and served from 1988 to 1992, changing his party affiliation to Republican, in 1991.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get back into politics,” said Roemer, who is currently living in a one-bedroom apartment in Manchester, N.H., while he campaigns in the state.
In 1991, he lost a reelection bid for governor in a three-way race against Edwin Edwards and David Duke, which Edwards won. “And after the race was over they both went to the penitentiary,” Roemer said, getting a laugh from the lecture crowd at the rough-and-tumble of Louisiana politics.
The lecture series gives students unparalleled access to politicians and policy makers, said visiting Professor Charles Wheelan ’88, of the Harris School at the University of Chicago, who is leading the class.
“For our students, it’s obviously a privilege to be immersed in contemporary politics and policy. And it’s hard to be more immersed than this,” he said in introducing Roemer in Moore Theater.
The Leading Voices series brings national political and policy experts and presidential candidates to the College, and is sponsored by the Office of the President and Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences at Dartmouth College. Each lecture addresses a major topic shaping current policy and political debate at the national level. The issues include the federal deficit, health care reform, the public education system, financial bailouts, and partisan politics.
Roemer’s topic was the struggle of the middle class.
“We have fewer jobs in America than we had 12 years ago and they pay less. Wow, that has never happened in America. It’s happening now,” he said.
The next speaker will be another Republican running for president, former Utah governor and former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr., who will speak on July 26, at noon in Moore Theater. Former New York City chancellor of schools Joel Klein will speak on July 28, also at noon. Klein, who in January became CEO of the Educational Division at News Corp., is now overseeing the company’s internal phone hacking investigation. For the most current news and schedule, see the “Leading Voices in Politics and Policy” lecture series website.
Previous speakers in the lecture series include former Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ’83, and Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim. Roemer’s public speech, along with others in the series, is available on Dartmouth’s YouTube channel.
This summer isn’t the only time presidential candidates will visit Dartmouth. Republicans running for the presidency will be on campus for a debate on the U.S. economy, on October 11. Hosted by Dartmouth, Bloomberg Television, The Washington Post, and WBIN-TV, the event will be broadcast nationally and around the globe by Bloomberg Television and streamed online by Washingtonpostlive.com.