A jubilant Kip Holden secured a third-term as East Baton Rouge Mayor-President on Tuesday, surrounded by a crowded room of supporters, family and friends.
Holden celebrated his victory at the Crown Plaza Hotel just moments after his most well-finance opponent could be seen conceding the race on TVs in the room.
“Let me thank all of you in Baton Rouge for giving me this opportunity to represent this city and parish for a third term,” Holden said to applause. “My hope is for the city of Baton Rouge and parish of East Baton Rouge to be not just the greatest place in America, but in the world.”
With 97 percent of precincts report, Holden had 60 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office.
Councilman Mike Walker took second place with 34 percent of the vote. Businessman Gordon Mese, came in third with 3 percent and attorney Steve Myers finished with 2 percent.
Walker thanked his supporters for helping him in his campaign, but continued to criticize the mayor in his concession speech.
“This mayor is not going to change,” he said adding that Holden does not operate government in a transparent way and expects the council to act as a rubber stamp.
He noted that he is still a Metro Councilman until the end of the year, and said he would focus his attention on the 2013 budget.
Holden, a Democrat, was elected as the parish’s first black mayor-president in 2004 when he defeated incumbent Bobby Simpson with 54 percent of the vote.
He made history again in 2008 when he won a landslide victory with 71 percent of the vote and became the only mayor-president to win a majority in all of the parish’s voting precincts.
Over the past eight years Holden has made his mark primarily in parish infrastructure through programs like the Green Light Plan, a half-cent sales tax-funded road improvements program.
The administration also has been managing and overseeing a $1.4 billion project to overhaul the parish’s crumbling sewer system, launched prior to his taking office. He also has been a proponent of downtown revitalization and has spearheaded projects like the North Boulevard Town Square.
Walker, a Republican, launched an aggressive and well-financed campaign in February, focusing on reducing crime by building up the police ranks. In campaign ads and speeches, Walker attacked Holden for failing to protect the public from crime and blamed him for allowing homicides to increase to record levels.
Last week, Walker’s campaign manager Chris Boudreaux said they expected to make it to a run off with Holden.
Walker, who served as council chairman the last four years, has been a council member for 12 years and is term limited.
Walker conceded the election at a party with friends and supporters at the Marriott Hotel.
Mese, the owner of Garden District Nursery, watched the votes come in with supporters at Phil Brady’s bar on Government Street wearing a suit and drinking Miller High Life.
Mese said running for office was one of the most “fantastic experiences of my life.”
Mese ran on a platform focused on changing the parish’s Unified Development Code, which serves as a blueprint for land use and development.
He said Tuesday night that he and fellow no-party candidate Myers effectively brought attention to the parish’s broken UDC and he hopes the mayor will work to improve the code.
“What (Holden) will be remembered for is what transpires in the next four years,” Mese said of Holden. “He can either be the man who refuses to do the right thing, or the man who changes the destiny of Baton Rouge.”
Steve Myers, an attorney and property manager, was the surprise mayoral candidate who launched his campaign after qualifying for office Aug. 17.
Myers, who has run for several offices including state representative, U.S. House of Representative and School Board, conceded his loss early in the night.
“This was a near impossible challenge,” he said. “Some people have ambition that exceeds their ability. I am just one of those people.”