Chairman Billy Tauzin: Bell Ringer - Page 6

Cajun at Heart

In Louisiana, friends said, Tauzins personal charisma and outgoing nature are characteristic of his Cajun background.

Tauzin came to politics on his own, according to his backers. His father and grandfather were electricians in the bayou. He grew up as an avid hunter and fisherman, with a theatrical flair. He went to Nicholls State University in Louisiana, where he dabbled in theater, and later to the University of Louisiana, where he earned a law degree.

Marie Bergeron, a now-retired radio reporter and personality from Thibodeaux, La., met Tauzin when he was in student government in high school and she interviewed him.

"He stood out even then," Bergeron said. "I followed him for years. People just love him. I remember when I needed a guest on my radio program and didnt have one, Id go out on the balcony, which was over the town square, and look for Billy. He never hesitated. "Hold on," hed yell. "Ill be right up."

She also watched as Edwards, whose political career ended in scandal, shepherded Tauzins political career.

Tauzin was Edwards floor leader in the Louisiana Legislature when Edwards succeeded in forcing a constitutional convention that made sweeping political and social reforms in Louisiana. Tauzin and Edwards former assistant and adviser, Breaux, were as close as anyone to the former governor.

Bergeron and others said there was fallout later between Tauzin and Edwards after Tauzin, already in Congress, jumped into the 1987 race for governor, believing that Edwards would not run again. When Edwards did get into the race, it eroded Tauzins power base and he lost. That set the stage for Tauzin to remain in Congress and pursue a different kind of power.

"They are both smart, charismatic guys," Tauzin aide Johnson said of his boss relationship with Edwards. "But theres one big difference: Billy Tauzin plants tomatoes in his back yard, not mason jars full of cash."