Holden eyes Lt. Governor race in 2015

Mayor-President Kip Holden said Tuesday that he’s 80 percent sure he will run for Louisiana lieutenant governor in 2015.

Holden, a Democrat, was sworn into his third term as East Baton Rouge mayor president in January. The term ends the last day of 2016, but he would leave the mayor’s office a year early if elected lieutenant governor.

Holden said elected officials from across the state have approached him to run for the office, which is currently held by Jay Dardenne. Dardenne has unofficially announced plans to run for governor.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Office oversees the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Holden said his work promoting and recruiting business and entertainment for Louisiana’s most-populous parish has positioned him well for the state office.

“This will allow me not only to promote Baton Rouge, but Louisiana,” Holden said Tuesday. “My other interest is preserving the culture of Louisiana for all people, because we are a melting pot.”

Holden said he hasn’t completely made up his mind because he wants to make sure that the mayor’s office is well positioned in the event he leaves a year early for the state office.

But the mayor said he has to make a decision soon because he would need to kick off a campaign by late summer. He projected he would need to raise between $2 million and $5 million for the campaign.

Holden said he’s accrued experience in recruiting businesses for Baton Rouge, working with leaders in other states and nations in search of opportunities for the city.

Holden said he’s leaving Saturday for a week-long trip to Taiwan — paid for by the Taiwanese government — in search of economic development opportunities.

This is his fourth visit to Taiwan, he said.

He said he plans to visit the Formosa Petrochemical headquarters in Taiwan to discuss a possible expansion to the Baton Rouge area.

Since taking office, Holden has visited Taiwan, Israel, Turkey and China.

While visiting China in 2010, Holden met with a medical group that produces a gamma ray knife device for cancer treatments.

He said Tuesday that he recently met with a group of business people from Beijing to continue talks about the possibility of building a plant in Baton Rouge.

Holden said being lieutenant governor would allow him to draw from the experience he has learned as Baton Rouge’s mayor to encourage international companies to do business in Louisiana.

Holden said he would not neglect his responsibilities to Baton Rouge while campaigning if he decides to run for lieutenant governor.

“It’s not like I’m going to be gone away and traveling for weeks at a time,” he said. “We still have a lot of work that we need to do here and I’m committed to doing that work and making sure Baton Rouge is first, and campaigning is second.”

If Holden vacates the mayor’s office early to be lieutenant governor, Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe would serve in his place until a special election could be called.

Holden, a lawyer, has served as mayor-president since 2005. He previously served in the state Senate and was a state representative from 1988 to 2001.