East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden is leading the polls in his race for re-election this Nov. 6 but could be vulnerable if he continues to lose support from white voters, pollster Bernie Pinsonat said Monday.
“At present day, you’d certainly rather be Kip Holden than Mike Walker because he has the numerical advantage,” Pinsonat said at the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday.
He said 42 percent of 400 likely voters polled in late July supported Holden, while 22 percent supported Walker and 29 percent said they were undecided. The remaining 7 percent said they would vote for other candidates.
Pinsonat polls with Southern Media and Opinion Research. His most recent poll was administered during the last week of July and had a 3.4 percentage point margin of error. Pinsonat, who said he is not involved with any of the current candidates running for mayor, would not publicly identify who commissioned the poll.
In addition to Walker, a Republican who serves as the Metro Council’s chairman, Holden, a Democrat, faces two other challengers in the Nov. 6 primary election. The other two candidates running are businessman Gordon Mese and lawyer Steve Myers, both no party candidates.
Holden has lost some support from among white voters that could be key to winning this fall, Pinsonat said. Holden needs 96 percent of black voters and 25 percent of white voters to win, Pinsonat said.
He said Holden used to have the support of more than 60 percent of white voters, but that number has fallen to about 29 percent, according to his most recent poll.
Rannah Gray, Holden’s campaign adviser, said their polling shows the mayor retains a high favorabilty rating.
“Everything I’ve seen from our internal polling shows the mayor running very strongly,” Gray said. “The turnout will be very strong and in favor of us, and I think we’re in good shape. We feel good about our race.”
Mike Smith, Walker’s campaign adviser, said he was not surprised that Pinsonat’s poll shows Holden is losing support.
“Our internal polling shows a very close race,” Smith said an email. “Voters are tired of being afraid of crime in our community while sitting in never-ending traffic. It’s clear that a majority of parishwide voters now believe that eight years of Kip Holden is enough.”
Pinsonat said crime and traffic are the two greatest areas of concern to voters.
He said 68 percent of people polled called traffic a serious parish problem and 75 percent said crime and drugs are serious problems. Almost half of those polled said they were concerned about their personal safety, and 58 percent said they knew someone who was a victim.
Pinsonat said in the past couple years, Baton Rouge has become fractured over certain local issues, which could also hurt Holden.
He said the bus system property tax that was passed in April and the library system’s decision to rebuild the River Center Branch Library are very unpopular among white voters. He said parish voters have divided themselves into pro- and anti-downtown crowds.
“The average voter out there, especially if you get further across into Shenandoah, Zachary, Central and outlying areas, they don’t want to pay those taxes, and they’re not comfortable with how their money is being spent,” Pinsonat said.
Those frustrations will bode worse for the Metro Council members, who are even less popular than the mayor, Pinsonat said.
The racial breakdown of the 400 likely voters polled in late July were 60 percent white, 36 percent black and 4 percent other, according to a copy of the Southern Media and Opinion Research poll.
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