Lieutenant governor candidates keep it friendly in Baton Rouge debate

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - The two men vying for the job of Lieutenant Governor sparred lightly during a friendly forum at the Belle of Baton Rouge Hotel held in conjunction with the Baton Rouge Press Club.

Sharing a few laughs together before the event, it seemed clear the candidates would continue their clean campaign, even when faced with questions on why they would be better to lead the state's massive tourism industry.

Billy Nungesser, former Plaquemines Parish President, told the Press Club he would use his first days in office to try and protect Louisiana's state parks and museums, slashed by the budget ax in previous sessions.

"My first plan would be to put a package together to present it to the legislature and restore some of the cuts to make sure we put our best foot forward in selling Louisiana to the world," Nungesser said.

While East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden told the Press club he would begin his job at Lt. Governor by promoting and improving the small towns across Louisiana that help contribute to the state's charm.

"A lot of people still aren't familiar with certain parts of Louisiana, so the other part would be actually going out there and begin to give people a little more pride in their community," Holden said.

During the forum, the pair were questioned on how they would convince international airlines to begin routing direct flights from Europe into Louis Armstrong International Airport, noting the millions of European visitors who flock to the state each year.

"That return on that investment will be astronomical and at the same time it may also open the avenues for not only new planes coming in, but at the same time a lot of those planes will have business people on it," Holden said, alluding to luring in new business using direct flights.

Nungesser provided a clear strategy on courting the airlines.

"We've got a great opportunity early next year with the International Tourism Convention coming to New Orleans, this is a perfect opportunity to meet with those airlines, look at what travelers we can bring from those countries, and start looking at a long term commitment," Nungesser said.

When questioned about Louisiana's seafood industry, both candidates agreed the work to reignite the Louisiana Seafood brand is far from over, as Holden posited more publicity on the safety of the state's resource would benefit the industry.

"[We should] have a panel of scientists and experts in the seafood industry and let them make a joint announcement of whether or not this product that you're consuming is healthy," Holden said.

Nungesser wants to make sure the brand doesn't lose support from it's closest advocates.

"We've got to make sure we're establishing a plan to support our industry, our fisherman, and also encourages our restaurants to use Louisiana seafood and promote it to the rest of the world," said Nungesser.

After a legislative session that saw a cap placed on the popular Film Tax Credits doled out by the state, both men agreed more should be done to convince movie makers to stay in the state and in some cases come back, but with oversight on the money given to companies.

"I believe if you get a dollar of state money, whether it's to open a new company, a non-profit,  a movie, you should have to get an audited report that we see every year. We shouldn't have to rely on the politician and the person getting the money to do the right thing," Nungesser said.

"Enforce the law, put the criminal penalties there and also the civil penalties and tell them in advance, 'We are real glad to have you here, but we have some rules and regulations that you have to follow if you want to be a partner with us,'" Holden said.

After the forum, the two men exchanged a heartfelt handshake and promised to continue a clean campaign as the final days before the election approach.

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