By Nick BeJeaux
For a year and a half Baton Rouge Mayor Melvin Lee “Kip” Holden has mulled over the choice to run for Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, and last week he officially announced that he is gunning for the job.
Holden made his announcement on Wednesday, Dec. 10 surrounded by supporters, family and friends, to whom he espoused his successes as mayor over the last decade and promised to expand those successes across Louisiana.
“For me, being elected mayor was a dream come true, and together, you and I have enjoyed what may be the best ten years our city has ever seen,” said Holden. “I’ve travelled the country, and even the world, selling Baton Rouge as the great investment opportunity that it is. I’ve arranged the exchange of ideas in science, engineering and technology, promoted our culture to new audiences, and I believe Louisiana’s best days are before us. If you remember one thing that I’ve said today, let it be that when we come together and work for the greater good, it’s magic.”
Holden highlighted that before he was elected mayor, there was no film industry in Baton Rouge. Today, BR sports one of the largest media centers outside of Hollywood, California and has generated billions of dollars for the local economy. Holden also said, somewhat strategically considering that the Lt. Gov. is essentially the state’s highest-ranking tour guide, that his work in BR helped the city become a tourism hotspot.
“We revitalized our downtown, created an arts and entertainment district, promoted out museums and libraries, updated our River Center, and made Baton Rouge an exciting destination for events like the Miss USA Pageant, which brought an international audience for our city,” he said. “We took a week in May, when most people were leaving town, and turned our city into hotspot for country music fans with the Bayou Country Superfest.”
“When I first took office, all we cared about was football rankings. Don’t get me wrong – I still care about those rankings. But we’ve instilled a new pride in our parish.”
Holden said that the deep divide between political ideals that has paralyzed national politics must be bridged if Baton Rouge and Louisiana are to move forward.
“When we lift ourselves from under the weight of divisiveness and put aside partisan bickering and parochial attitudes about North vs. South, there’s simply nothing stopping us here in Baton Rouge,” he said. “Louisiana has the talent and resources to solve problems that affect the world; I believe that tomorrow will be great.”
Holden said that even if he wins the race, he plans to stay in Baton Rouge and see that the projects, namely the FuturEBR Plan, he has set in motion are completed.
“It’s in good hands, but I want people to know that I’m not leaving Baton Rouge,” he said. “I plan to act as a guardian to make sure that all of those plans come to fruition.”
Holden, a Democrat, is, so far, running against two Republicans: Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and State Senator Elbert Guillory of Opelousas. If Holden manages to overcome them, he will become a full-time advocate for Louisiana’s tourism industry and fill in for the governor when they are away, incapacitated or otherwise absent.
Notable candidates for Governor include current Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, Republican Senator David Vitter, and Democrat State Representative John Bel Edwards. In a brief interview with DIG, Holden says he has no plans to offer any endorsements but hopes that whoever wins is up to the many challenges on the horizon.
“They’re all good people. What I will not do is become a wedge between the people who are running,” he said. “Louisiana has some tough financial times ahead. Whoever wins that race is going to be faced with some hard decisions, but they need to make sure that there aren’t as many people suffering then as there are today.”