Mayor-President Kip Holden said Tuesday that he’s finally made up his mind and will run for lieutenant governor in 2015.
The third-term mayor of Baton Rouge first confirmed the news on WRKF’s Jim Engster show, saying that he would officially announce his intentions the second week of November, as not to distract voters from this fall’s slate of elections.
In the radio interview, Holden also showed he’s willing to throw some punches in the state political arena, taking advantage of the opportunity to criticize Gov. Bobby Jindal’s trip this week to the Texas-Mexico border to get a better understanding of the national immigration crisis.
“This is the first time in our history that a governor has said that the U.S. Mexican border is a threat to Louisiana,” Holden said. He added that Jindal’s priorities were misplaced and the governor should be more concerned with issues closer to home like crime, access to health care, poverty and coastal restoration.
A spokeswoman for Jindal took issue with Holden’s on-air statements.
“We believe the mayor is wrong. An unsecured border in Mexico does have an impact in Louisiana. Look at the drugs and gangs coming across the border into Texas that are arriving in our state. It is shortsighted of the mayor to say that illegal immigrants and an unsecure border don’t have an impact,” deputy communications director Shannon Bates said in a statement.
Holden said in an interview with The Advocate on Tuesday that he finally decided he would run because of “encouragement that has been resounding” from people in all parts of the state.
In June, Holden said he was “80 percent sure” that he would run for the office currently held by Jay Dardenne, also a longtime Baton Rouge politician. Dardenne is running for governor next year.
The lieutenant governor’s primary job is as commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, although the attraction for many is as a potential stepping stone to the governor’s office. In the event the governor’s office becomes vacant, the lieutenant governor fills in.
The day-to-day tasks of the job come with very tight constraints, which some of the office’s holders have chafed against. But Holden seemed attracted to the possibility of being the state’s chief promoter.
As mayor of Baton Rouge, Holden said he’s garnered experience promoting the capital city and attracting businesses and cultural events to the area. If he rises to the lieutenant governor position, Holden said he wants to better promote Louisiana’s rich history and unique musical influences.
“Promote, promote, promote,” he said. “You’ll see small towns and larger towns.”
Holden previously worked closely with the state tourism office to negotiate the terms of securing the Bayou Country Superfest in Baton Rouge at Tiger Stadium.
He said one thing he would have done differently than Dardenne was avoided wading into the “Duck Dynasty” controversy last year. Phil Robertson, the star of the popular show, which is shot in West Monroe, was quoted in a GQ interview making offensive statements about gay and black people, leading A&E Network to temporarily suspend him.
In the midst of the public outcry about Robertson’s comments, Dardenne volunteered steadfast support of the show.
“ ‘Duck Dynasty’ has been an important representation of the state of Louisiana, inspiring prospective visitors and investors since its debut. Their show draws tens of millions of viewers each year, reaching an audience eager to visit Sportsman’s Paradise,” Dardenne said in December.
Holden said Dardenne’s comment was “like putting gasoline on a fire.”
“You have to understand there are a lot of people who are very sensitive about what you say,” he said. “You have to make sure you’re constantly reminding yourself of that and push things that are on the more positive side. But everyone makes mistakes.”
So far Holden, a Democrat, will likely face Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and State Sen. Elbert Guillory, both Republicans. There has also been speculation that Jefferson Parish President John Young, also a Republican, could end up running.
Holden’s mayoral term doesn’t expire until the end of 2016, which means if he wins he’d have to leave office a year early.
He said his campaign will be aggressive and include traveling across the state. He said he will maintain his duties as mayor-president by “bringing his work on the road” with him.
Holden also said he’s already assembled a network of supporters across the state, who have pledged to raise money and help plug him into areas in the northern part of the state where he has less recognition.
“People in those areas have volunteered to go out and canvass,” he said. “We’ve kind of divided the state already and they’re just waiting for me to say let’s go, and then we’re ready.”
Holden closed out 2013 with a campaign war chest of just more than $64,500, according to his February disclosures.