Gary James Beard (born April 7, 1956) is a former conservative Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from East Baton Rouge Parish who was handily defeated in his bid for lieutenant governor in the jungle primary held on October 20, 2007. Beard ran third in the race with 130,935 (11 percent). The incumbent, Democrat Mitchell "Mitch" Landrieu of New Orleans, was reelected with 57 percent of the vote. Also running was a second Republican, Country music singer Sammy Kershaw of Abbeville, the seat of Vermilion Parish in southwestern Louisiana, who drew 30 percent of the ballots.
Beard holds a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Beard won a special election on August 18, 2001, to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Republican State Representative Chuck McMains. Five Republicans ran in the special election in the heavily Republican District 69. Beard and David Boneno, a member of the Baton Rouge Metro Council, advanced to the runoff because no one polled a majority in the initial balloting. Beard then defeated Boneno, 4,093 (59 percent) to 2,847 (41 percent). Boneno had the support of McMains and Republican Governor Murphy J. "Mike" Foster, Jr. in the special election. Beard countered with the backing of the "Christian Right". Beard took his seat on August 30, 2001.
On October 4, 2003, Beard won his full term in the state House. He drew 11,317 votes (69 percent) in the jungle primary over the "No Party" candidate, Robelynn Hood Abadie, and his fellow Republican, Don Simmons, who polled 3,091 (20 percent) and 1,421 (9 percent), respectively.
Beard announced his candidacy for the state's second-highest constitutional office on June 4, 2007. The lieutenant governor is the overseer of the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism and no longer presides over the Louisiana State Senate, as is the custom in many states. Beard said that had he been elected he would become involved in more than tourism. Beard estimated that his campaign cost about $1.8 million.
Beard describes himself as a "family-values" candidate. He supports right-to-life, having introduced bills to ban human cloning and to outlaw partial-birth abortion. He also was initially elected to the legislature on a strongly anti-tax platform.
Beard is involved in a dispute with state officials over $320,000 in movie tax credits that he claims he is owed for his work on a proposed film studio.
Beard is married to the former Diane Hay (born 1966).
Two Republicans met in the low-turnout November 17 general election to fill Beard's seat. Building contractor Erich Ponti, with 6,772 votes (63 percent), defeated retired Entergy Corporation executive William L. "Bill" Benedetto (born 1941), who polled 4,059 ballots (37 percent). Two eliminated primary candidates, Brian P. McNabb and Joseph Robert "Bob" Thibodeaux, both Republicans, had polled a combined 40 percent of the original vote.