Metro Councilman Mike Walker ramped up the rhetoric against his one-time ally,
Mayor-President Kip Holden, while speaking Tuesday at the East Baton Rouge Republican Party luncheon, where he received the parish party’s endorsement for the Nov. 6 mayoral election.
“What in the world will it be like if we don’t make two changes?” Walker said referring to Holden and President Barack Obama. “It’s a nightmare. Neither one of them will be able to run again, so they’ll have no one to answer to.”
At least 100 people attended Walker’s rally Tuesday evening, enjoying live music and free food and meeting the candidate, at his Sherwood Forest Boulevard headquarters to celebrate qualifying for office. Both Walker, who serves as
the council’s chairman, and Holden, a Democrat, are expected to qualify Wednesday morning.
A third candidate for mayor, Gordon Mese, no party, said Tuesday he wasn’t sure when he would file qualifying papers.
Walker, a Republican, delivered a familiar stump speech, promising to prioritize crime in the budget before all other city-parish needs, but also answered hard questions from the audience.
One audience member asked Walker how he would address the rising burden of pension costs and benefit plans.
Walker said benefits and pensions would have to be cut for new hires. He stressed current employees and retirees should be entitled to their plans. He also said the cuts in benefits could be mitigated by the city-parish’s current plans to re-evaluate salaries and ensure employees are being paid fair wages.
Walker also had to defend his record of sometimes voting in the past in favor of downtown “shrines,” as one audience member called it, in reference to the Downtown Library.
Walker said Baton Rouge’s downtown is “the best I’ve seen in my lifetime,” and said opponents could not cast him as anti-downtown because he’s been supportive in the past.
But he added, “We’ve done enough, and they need to sustain themselves for awhile, because we’ve turned our back on the north, the south, the east and the west.”
In addition to crime, Walker said his top campaign platforms are helping small business and improving education.
Walker said city-parish leaders need to get involved with the school system to improve parish education and said as the next mayor-president he would work “hand and hand with all school officials.”
Walker did not directly answer a question posed by an audience member as to what specifically he could do, as mayor president, to improve the schools.
He said he’s seen what’s wrong with the schools because he spent two years as a substitute teacher and encouraged more people to substitute teach and mentor children to learn what’s going on in the schools.
He also blamed many student problems on poor parenting.
Metro Councilman Chandler Loupe, whose son was shot and paralyzed earlier this year, also attended the meeting and publicly endorsed Walker.
“The issues Baton Rouge is facing with crime, and my recent tragedy, has strengthened my conviction to support the kind of person that will change that, and I think that Mike is that candidate.”
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