But Not Forgotten: Treen (R-LA), Hansen (R-WY), Johnson (D-WI) : It's All Politics Three former members of Congress have died in recent days.
NPR logo But Not Forgotten: Treen (R-LA), Hansen (R-WY), Johnson (D-WI)

But Not Forgotten: Treen (R-LA), Hansen (R-WY), Johnson (D-WI)

Cliff Hansen served Wyoming as governor and senator. hide caption

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Three former members of Congress died in the past several days.

DAVE TREEN: The former Louisiana congressman -- and the state's first Republican governor since Reconstruction -- died early today (Thursday) at the age of 81.

Treen was one of the founders of the modern day Louisiana GOP, running three times for Congress against Rep. Hale Boggs (D) of New Orleans, in 1962, '64 and '68; he came closest in the last race, holding then-House Majority Whip Boggs to a 51-49 percent majority. Early in 1972, he decided to run for governor, but lost in a landslide to Democrat Edwin Edwards. But later in the year, with Rep. Patrick Caffery (D) retiring (in a district neighboring Boggs'), Treen ran and won, defeating Democrat Louis Lambert. Treen won convincing re-election battles three times. In 1979, with Gov. Edwards retiring, Treen ran again and this time he won. The victory was narrow, the closest in history, but as a Republican Treen made history as well. (His Dem opponent was the same Louis Lambert.)

As governor, he worked to improve the state's education system. Treen's bid for a second term was thwarted in 1983 by his bitter rival, the comebacking ex-Gov. Edwards, who won in a landslide. It was during this campaign where Edwards said he classic line, saying the only way he could lose is "if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy." In 1991, when Edwards was running again and his opponent was former Klansman David Duke, Treen endorsed Edwards.

Seeking a political comeback in 1999, Treen entered the race to succeed Rep. Bob Livingston (R), who resigned. He led the initial vote but narrowly lost the runoff to fellow Republican (and now Sen.) David Vitter. He considered running for governor again, in 2003, but withdrew after GOP leaders coalesced behind Bobby Jindal. Jindal was defeated, then was elected to Congress. In 2007, after Jindal won on his second try for governor, Treen attempted another comeback, to succeed Jindal in the House. But he lost that race too, to Steve Scalise (R).

CLIFF HANSEN: Hansen, a Wyoming Republican who was the oldest living former U.S. senator, died Oct. 20 at 97. A cattle rancher with conservative and small-town values, Hansen was elected governor in 1962, ousting Democratic incumbent Jack Gage. Once in office, Hansen helped rebuild the state's highway system. With Sen. Milward Simpson (R) retiring in 1966, Hansen won that race, defeating Rep. Teno Roncalio (D) with just 52 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 1972 in a landslide and retired in 1978 -- succeeded by Simpson's son, Alan.

JAY JOHNSON: Johnson, a one-term Democratic congressman from Wisconsin's 8th District, died on Oct. 17 at 66. He was a longtime TV broadcaster when he decided to run for the seat being vacated by Republican Toby Roth. He won an upset victory but lost two years later to Mark Green (R). Following his defeat, he was named director of the U.S. Mint.