East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden became the fourth candidate to enter the 2015 lieutenant governor’s race.
Holden touted Wednesday his record as the chief executive of Louisiana’s capital city for the past decade. He talked about the economic turnaround in Baton Rouge as well as the expansion of arts, entertainment and cultural forums that have put the city on lists of best places to live. He said he would make similar successes happen as the state’s No. 2 leader.
By law, the lieutenant governor’s main job is to step in should the governor die, become incapacitated or leave the state. But his day-to-day role is to oversee the state’s tourism efforts and try to attract more visitors.
“I’m a salesman. I’m a promoter, an advocate and cheerleader who has led Louisiana’s most populous parish, and look what we have done together,” Holden told a crowd of supporters. “I want to lift up every corner of the state. In Louisiana, tomorrow will be great.”
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, a Republican, has said he plans to run for governor next fall, thereby opening up his job.
Holden is a Democrat. Three other contenders are Republicans: state Sen. Elbert Guillory, of Opelousas; Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser; and Jefferson Parish President John Young.
Young was in Baton Rouge on Tuesday to meet with local Republicans.
“It’s part of the (campaign) outreach and putting forth the reason I announced for lieutenant governor,” Young said Wednesday.
Young said Holden’s entry into the race “adds another dynamic, him being a Democrat.” He said Holden will have an election base in Baton Rouge while he will have one in Jefferson Parish, the second most populous parish.
Nungesser made an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor in 2011. He had the backing of Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter then. Nungesser is preparing for another run as Vitter runs for governor. He has $1.45 million in campaign funds available for a “future election,” according to his latest campaign finance report.
Guillory, the state’s first black Republican senator since Reconstruction, raised about $80,000 in 2013 for the lieutenant governor’s race but finished the year $2,000 in the red. On Wednesday, Guillory said he would formally announce in January.
“With four or five of us involved, I think, we are going to give Louisianians some good ideas and some good choices,” said Guillory, of Opelousas. “I welcome him (Holden) to the fray.”
Holden said he expects a very competitive race.
“I anticipate nothing is going to come easy, but I’ll still put my record up against anyone and let people make the decision,” Holden said.
Holden’s wife, Lois, as well as two sons, ministers, politicians, businessmen, close friends and aides joined in the announcement event in a Drusilla Catering banquet room bedecked with balloons and green and white campaign signs. Holden sported a peel-away sign that read “I’ve Been Kipnotized.”
Holden, 62, is a former Metro Council member, state representative and senator. He said the No. 2 job in state government is not a “stepping stone for me, not a bureaucratic outpost.”
“I’ve served in many levels of government and made lasting friendships in state and federal agencies, in other states and cities as well,” Holden said. He said those relationships will serve Louisiana well when he becomes lieutenant governor.
He said he wants to continue on the state level economic development promotion similar to what he’s been doing at the local level. “I have traveled the country, even the world, selling Baton Rouge as the great investment opportunity it is,” he said. “I have recruited new business, negotiated film and TV deals,” said Holden, and helped bolster the hospitality industry as well as arts, literary and music events.
He pointed to the revitalization of Baton Rouge’s riverfront and downtown which have boosted private investment, tourism and convention business.