Gene Mills, Louisiana Family Forum

Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum, speaks to the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday, Jan. 6.

Gene Mills, president of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum, said Donald Trump was nowhere near his first choice for president.

“He was the 16th out of 16, and there was only one that he was above,” Mills said Monday. “That was Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is a “choir boy,” Mills said. Jindal’s presidential campaign never gained momentum.

“We tried dignity” with former President George W. Bush, and he was ridiculed, Mills said. Republicans tried decorum and protocol with failed presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney, he added.

But while Trump’s tweets sometimes make him “cringe,” Mills said, the president has delivered on issues important to conservative Christian voters such as opposition to abortion and the makeup of the judiciary. Mills said he respects those who believe Trump is “not morally fit” to be president but said he has not seen enough evidence to warrant Trump's impeachment and removal from office.

At Monday’s meeting of the Baton Rouge Press Club, Mills was asked for his reaction to the news that Dr. Rebekah Gee is resigning from the Louisiana Department of Health. He said he didn’t know why she was stepping down but speculated she might be “tired of battling.”

“I don’t know why people would serve in public service,” he said.

Mills said he was “troubled” when Gov. John Bel Edwards’ selected Gee to lead LDH because of her past support for abortion rights, which Edwards opposes.

The Louisiana Family Forum has filed a brief in the pending U.S. Supreme Court Case, June Medical Services LLC v. Gee, involving Louisiana’s statute requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of the clinic. Gee is being sued in her capacity as LDH secretary.

While critics say the law is medically unnecessary and serves only to restrict access to abortion, Mills says it protects women’s health.

“Louisiana’s law simply attempts to ensure that women are not placed in a compromising situation when it comes to accessing emergency medical care,” Mills said.

Asked about Louisiana Family Forum’s legislative agenda for the coming year, Mills said he wouldn’t know until lawmakers start filing legislation and LFF could review the bills, though some issues are “non-negotiable” such as abortion. He noted that the most likely floor leaders for the next term of the Republican-dominated legislature vote with LFF most of the time.

Mills said he expected further tweaks of the state’s criminal justice system in the coming years and hopes the state can do more to prepare prisoners for life on the outside. He said he supports the death penalty, which hasn’t been used in Louisiana since 2010, but says it has become “fiscally unsound” because of the decades-long appeals process.

LFF is one of many state policy groups associated with Colorado-based Focus on the Family.

Staff Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.