The runoff for lieutenant governor has been a lackluster affair overshadowed by the governor’s race which has dominated the Louisiana political landscape.
As election day approaches, Democratic candidate Kip Holden and Republican contender Billy Nungesser plan to activate a media campaign that has been dormant since they gained runoff spots. And they will be taking their campaigns to towns and villages around the state.
“There will be very little sleep,” said Holden, the Baton Rouge mayor who hopes to become the first black statewide elected officials since Reconstruction. Holden said he plans an “intense” media campaign that includes radio and TV spots with some celebrity endorsements.
“We are going to tour the entire state, hopefully energize the people,” said Nungesser, the former two-term president of Plaquemines Parish on his second quest for the No. 2 job in state government. He said he’s already clocked 70,000 miles on his campaign vehicle. On the last campaign swing, country music singer Sammy Kershaw will accompany him.
The lieutenant race has been devoid of the attack ads and the nasty accusations that flew as the Oct. 24 primary approached. Nungesser and Republican Jefferson Parish President John Young waged a fierce battle for the run-off spot, knowing lone Democratic contender Holden would survive the primary. Holden sat back and watched. He raised and spent little.
Holden finished first with 33 percent of the vote in the primary. After spending more than $5 million between them, Nungesser edged out Young to move on to Saturday’s election, gaining 30 percent of the vote to Young’s 29 percent.
Young has not endorsed in the runoff. State Sen. Elbert Guillory, an Opelousas Republican who finished fourth, endorsed Nungesser.
Holden and Nungesser vowed to do no negative campaigning in the runoff. So far, neither have.
Holden raised and spent a fraction of what Nungesser is reporting — in the low six figures compared to Nungesser’s more than $3.26 million.
Nungesser is also getting some outside help from the State Government Leadership Foundation, which is running radio and digital ads this week. The ultra-conservative Washington, D.C.-based group notes Nungesser’s “penchant for public service” and his leadership role in fighting for Plaquemines Parish in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill.
As they campaign, the candidates note their differences as well as what they have to offer in the job of the state’s chief tourism promoter.
At Monday’s Press Club of Baton Rouge, Holden stressed his public service record on the city council and in the Legislature as well as strides Baton Rouge has made during his 11 years as mayor in economic development and tourism. He talks about how he won election with supporters that crossed racial and party lines.
“When I look at my style, my philosophy, I go out aggressively and tell people what we have here. I promote. I brought in a lot of activity,” Holden said.
Nungesser said he’s a Republican, pro-gun, pro-life and a businessman. “I believe Kip’s a lawyer,” Nungesser added.
“By nature, I’m a good salesman,” Nungesser said, talking about he how launched a successful company converting shipping containers to housing for offshore workers. “I have a love and passion for this state,” he said.
The two candidates shared ideas on how they would grow the state’s tourism industry. Last year, tourists spent $11.2 billion and generated a record $836 million for the state treasury.
Nungesser touts a plan he says will create 6,600 new jobs in four years and grow revenues 10 percent annually. Nungesser proposed promotion of the state’s horse industry as well as sports fishing. “We are the Sportsman’s Paradise and we don’t have a plan to promote fishing statewide to the world,” Nungesser said.
Holden said he would work especially with small towns to promote what they have to offer visitors.
“If we don’t help the small towns in terms of promotion ... we will have more ghost towns in Louisiana,” he said. He said a lot of social media can be tapped into for promotion efforts.
Both said they would fight to protect dedicated tourism marketing from being raided for special events, such as major sports competitions and festivals, which require state support. Holden said each special event needs to be analyzed before decisions are made to see the cost-benefit. Millions have been diverted annually from the fund for special events as well as state government operations.
Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage from the State Capitol, follow Louisiana politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/