Lt. governor candidates' priorities: Fighting crime, promoting education, stimulating economy, 'everything possible' _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARSHA SHULER -- Candidates for lieutenant governor addressed a Baton Rouge forum Thursday, Sept.17, 2015. The candidates are, from left to right, Baton Rouge Mayor President Kip Holden, Jefferson Parish President John Young, former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, and State Sen. Elbert Guillory, of Opelousas.

Crime’s impact on tourism — especially in New Orleans, the hub of activity — worries the top tier of lieutenant governor candidates.

“We will kill the goose that laid the golden egg if we don’t reduce crime and protect visitors,” Jefferson Parish President John Young said.

Young proposed a special anti-crime unit in the French Quarter. East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden suggested plainclothes policemen and state Sen. Elbert Guillory, of Opelousas, more police presence.

Former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said he will leave how to combat crime up to law enforcement.

“I’m not going to do their job. I’m going to support their efforts,” Nungesser said. He added that the real problem is judges who let drug dealers and other criminals back on the streets.

None of the four embraced law enforcement stopping and frisking suspected criminals, an idea floated Wednesday by state Treasurer John Kennedy.

Tourism brought 28.7 million visitors to Louisiana last year, generating $836 million in revenue for the state.

The candidates discussed their various approaches to crime as they answered questions at a Leaders With Vision forum Thursday. The questions were posed by a panel of media representatives.

Holden is a Democrat. Guillory, Nungesser and Young are Republicans.

The four are on the Oct. 24 ballot seeking the No. 2 job in state government. The lieutenant governor oversees the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. The current officeholder, Jay Dardenne, has directed tourism efforts during a period of record-setting visitors. He eliminated the high-paid department secretary’s position to save money.

Dardenne is running for governor, leaving an open seat.

Only Young said he would continue to personally lead the agency. Others said they would take a look at the situation once elected.

Each said they see playing an active role in state government — beyond specific duties spelled out in state law.

“I will get involved in everything,” Nungesser said. “I want to be involved in the coastal plan, in creating jobs. I will get involved in everything physically possible ... everything from veterans to seniors. You will never hear me say ‘That’s not my job.’ ”

Young and Holden said they would like to get involved in economic development efforts.

Guillory said he’d use the position as a “bully pulpit” to promote education.

All four candidates declined to say which governor’s candidate they like, saying they are going to have to work with whoever is elected.

“I’m not going to get involved in other people’s races,” Holden said.

The candidates said they are boosters of the film industry in Louisiana and predicted that caps on film tax credits imposed during the 2015 legislative session will go back up.

Nungesser and Young said there needs to be more accountability and transparency to deter wrongdoing in the program, which has not been without controversy.

“When you have problems with two fingers, you don’t cut off the whole hand,” Holden said. He underscored the economic benefits of the program, noting that two Plank Road gas stations in Baton Rouge made $1 million each off activity related to the filming of a remake of “The Magnificent Seven.”

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter, @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage from the State Capitol, follow Louisiana politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.