John Calvin Fleming, Jr. (born July 5, 1951) is a Minden, Louisiana physician, the author of the book Preventing Addiction, and the Republican U.S. representative from Louisiana's 4th congressional district. Fleming defeated Democratic nominee Paul Carmouche in the 2008 election by a margin of only 356 votes.
He is a second cousin five times removed to Henry Clay of Kentucky, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. senator, and secretary of state. Fleming is a member of Sons of the American Revolution and Jamestowne Society.
Fleming is the first U.S.
representative from Minden since 1937, when John N. Sandlin vacated the seat, having lost a contested primary for the United States Senate to Allen J. Ellender of Houma, the seat of Terrebonne Parish in south Louisiana. Fleming is only the second Republican to hold the seat since Reconstruction. Republicans first seriously contested the seat in a special election in 1961, when their nominee, Shreveport oilman Charlton Lyons, polled 46 percent of the vote against the successful Democrat, Joe D. Waggonner, Jr., of Plain Dealing in northern Bossier Parish.
Early life and education
Fleming was born in Meridian, the seat of Lauderdale County in eastern Mississippi. He grew up in a working class home in which his mother became disabled when he was still young and could not work. Just prior to graduating from high school, Fleming's father suddenly died of a heart attack which required him to work his way through college. He attended college at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and medical school in Jackson. He entered the United States Navy to help fund his medical education.
He was awarded his B.S. degree in 1973 and M.D. degree in 1976.
Fleming and his wife, Cindy, have been married since 1978 and have four children.
After earning his medical degree, Fleming acted as chief resident in family medicine at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Camp Pendleton, California. He also trained at the drug and alcohol treatment unit at the Navy Regional Medical Center in Long Beach. Serving in the Navy after his residency, Fleming practiced military family medicine on the island of Guam.
There from 1979 to 1981, he was the director of drug and alcohol treatment and chairman of the Navy’s Family Advocacy Committee. Thereafter, he performed similar duties in Charleston, South Carolina.
After leaving the Navy, Fleming established a private practice in 1982 in Minden. His family practice emphasizes the treatment of depression, attention span disorder, and the prevention of chronic disease.He is certified by the American Board of Family Practice and is on the staff at the Minden Medical Center. Fleming is a member of the Louisiana Academy of Family Physicians (LAFP). In 2007, he was chosen as the LAFP "Louisiana Family Practice Physician of the Year."
Fleming is the author of the 2006 book Preventing Addiction: What Parents Must Know to Immunize Their Kids Against Drug and Alcohol Addiction, which is aimed at assisting parents in keeping their children from potential chemical dependency. He has appeared on numerous national broadcast programs to promote his book.
Fleming is also a businessman; he owns 33 Subway sandwich shops in northern Louisiana and owns Fleming Expansions, LLC, a regional developer for The UPS Store, which supports stores in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
In a September 19, 2011 interview on MSNBC, in which Fleming criticized President Obama's proposed plan to increase taxes on the wealthy, Fleming told host Chris Jansing, "The amount that I have to invest in my business and feed my family is more like $600,000 of that $6.3 million...So by the time I feed my family I have, maybe, $400,000 left over to invest in new locations, upgrade my locations, buy more equipment." When Jansing asked Fleming if he thought the "average person" might be unsympathetic to Fleming's position, Fleming responded, "Class warfare never created a job...This is not about attacking people who make certain incomes. You know in this country, most people feel that being successful in their business is a virtue, not a vice, and once we begin to identify it as a vice, this country is going down."
Fleming's remarks were widely reported and resulted in considerable commentary. Bruce Alpert of Louisiana newspaper The Times-Picayune reported that "on liberal blogs, Fleming was portrayed as insensitive to millions of working Americans who are struggling to meet expenses in the face of high unemployment and stagnant wages." Conservative sources including Bill O'Reilly and the Drudge Report defended Fleming's remarks; Josh Beavers, publisher of the Minden Press-Herald in Fleming's hometown, wrote an editorial which stated, "[Fleming's] sentiment was only that the more taxes he pays the fewer people he can employ. High taxes on business owners thwart economic activity."
Early political career
On October 21, 1995, Republican Fleming was elected as coroner of traditionally Democratic Webster Parish (2000 population: 41,831), having defeated the no-party candidate, Dr. Carlos A. Irizarry, 7,842 (60.6 percent) to 5,143 (39.6 percent). He succeeded Dr. Carl A. Hines, a Minden Democrat who did not seek reelection.
Fleming entered the race to become the Republican nominee for the District 4 House seat after McCrery announced retirement. He received political support from the LAFP and the American Academy of Family Physicians' (AAFP) political action committee for his campaign.
Fleming supported the FairTax, which would replace the income tax with a sales tax rate, as defined in the legislation, of 23 percent of the total payment, equivalent to a 30 percent traditional U.S. sales tax ($23 on top of every $77 spent before taxes.)
The primary and subsequent runoff election were delayed because of the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav. In the October 4, 2008, Republican closed primary, Fleming ran against Jeff Thompson of Shreveport (McCrery's choice), and Chris Gorman (a trucking executive). In a close election, no candidate received a majority of the votes. Fleming led with 14,500 votes (35.1 percent), followed by Gorman with 14,072 votes (34.1 percent), and Thompson with 12,693 votes (30.8 percent). This set up a primary runoff between Fleming and Gorman which was held on November 4, along with the national presidential election.
In the runoff, Fleming defeated Gorman, 43,012 votes (55.6 percent) to 34,405 (44.4 percent) and carried all but one of the thirteen parishes in the district. On November 4, the total Republican vote for District 4 Representative was 72,754 ballots below the total cast on the Democratic side (150,171), where Carmouche won easily over Willie Banks, Jr., an African American attorney, 93,093 (62 percent) to 57,078 (38 percent).
In the 2006 race against McCrery, "Catfish" Kelley ran as a Republican and drew 12 percent of the vote under the still existing jungle primary format. In 2008, his 3 percent was far more than the margin between Fleming and Carmouche. A plurality is sufficient to win the general election—which, along with the District 2 race, were the last congressional races in the nation in 2008.
Outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney appeared in Shreveport on November 21 to speak at a fundraiser for Fleming. Politico.com indicated that McCrery supports Fleming but had made no official endorsement and had not appeared at any of Fleming's campaign events. On December 2, McCrery spoke on Fleming's behalf in an appearance on the Moon Griffon radio program, which is syndicated in most Louisiana media markets. He used the argument that Carmouche, if successful, would cast his first vote for Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.
Carmouche led in the count most of the evening, but Bossier Parish, considered the most Republican-leaning in the district (2nd most in the state after St. Tammany Parish), erased an earlier 2,000 vote lead for Carmouche and gave Fleming a district-wide margin of 356 votes. Carmouche won Caddo Parish, 22,742-15,510, but Fleming lost his own Webster Parish, 3,790 to 3,622. Bossier Parish gave Fleming 9,311 votes to Carmouche's 5,301 ballots. Fleming also won in traditionally Democratic Natchitoches and Claiborne parishes. Fleming succeeds Republican James Otis "Jim" McCrery, Jr., a 21-year incumbent who did not seek reelection.
On December 10, 2008, Paul Carmouche formally conceded the election to Fleming.
Political consultant Lee Fletcher managed Fleming's campaign for Congress and served for the first few months in the term as Fleming's chief of staff. However, cancer struck Fletcher, who died at the age of forty-three on September 30, 2009. Fletcher previously was the chief of staff to former 5th Congressional District U.S. Representative John Cooksey of Monroe. In 2002, Fletcher himself narrowly lost the 5th District congressional race to Rodney Alexander of Jackson Parish, then a Democrat who subsequently switched parties in August 2004.
Fleming was unopposed in the Republican primary and was challenged by Democratic nominee David R. Melville, a Methodist minister from Bossier City and brother-in-law of former Governor Buddy Roemer. Artis Cash, a Shreveport community organizer, ran as an Independent in the general election. Buddy Roemer, a Republican, supported David Melville in the general election.
John Fleming was reelected by a large margin over David Melville, with 62.3% of the popular vote. Melville garnered 32.4% of the popular vote while Independent candidate Artis Cash came in third, with 5.3% of the popular vote. Fleming presented himself as an anti-Obama style Republican who would work to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Fleming claimed that Democratic policies were out of step with his district and most of America.
November 20th, 2011