BATON ROUGE, La. — U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal easily defeated 11 opponents and became the state’s first nonwhite governor since Reconstruction, decades after his parents moved to the state from India to pursue the American dream.
Jindal, a 36-year-old Republican, will be the nation’s youngest governor. He had 53 percent with 625,036 votes with about 92 percent of the vote tallied. It was more than enough to win Saturday’s election outright and avoid a Nov. 17 runoff.
“My mom and dad came to this country in pursuit of the American dream. And guess what happened. They found the American dream to be alive and well right here in Louisiana,” he said to cheers and applause at his victory party.
His nearest competitors: Democrat Walter Boasso with 208,690 votes or 18 percent; Independent John Georges had 167,477 votes or 14 percent; Democrat Foster Campbell had 151,101 or 13 percent. Eight candidates divided the rest.
“I’m asking all of our supporters to get behind our new governor,” Georges said in a concession speech.
The Oxford-educated Jindal had lost the governor’s race four years ago to Gov. Kathleen Blanco. He won a congressional seat in conservative suburban New Orleans a year later but was widely believed to have his eye on the governor’s mansion.
Blanco opted not to run for re-election after she was widely blamed for the state’s slow response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
“My administration has begun readying for this change and we look forward to helping with a smooth transition,” she said in a prepared statement. “I want to thank the people of Louisiana for the past four years, though there is still much work to do in my last few months as your governor.”
Starts in January
Jindal, who takes office in January, pledged to fight corruption and rid the state of those “feeding at the public trough,” revisiting a campaign theme.
“They can either go quietly or they can go loudly, but either way, they will go,” he said, adding that he would call the Legislature into special session to address ethics reform.
Political analysts said Jindal built up support as a sort of “buyer’s remorse” from people who voted for Blanco last time and had second thoughts about that decision. Blanco was widely criticized for the state’s response to Hurricane Katrina and she announced months ago that she would not seek re-election.
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“I think the Jindal camp, almost explicitly, (wanted) to cast it this way: If you were able to revote, who would you vote for?” said Pearson Cross, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette political scientist.
Jindal has held a strong lead in the polls since the field of candidates became settled nearly two months ago.
But the two multimillionaires in the race — Boasso, a state senator from St. Bernard Parish, and Georges, a New Orleans-area businessman — poured millions of their own dollars into their campaigns to try to prevent Jindal’s victory.
Campbell, a public service commissioner from Bossier Parish, had less money but ran on a singular plan: scrapping the state income tax on businesses and individuals and levying a new tax on oil and gas processed in Louisiana.
The race was one of the highest-spending in Louisiana history. Jindal alone raised $11 million, and Georges poured about $10 million of his personal wealth into his campaign war chest while Boasso plugged in nearly $5 million of his own cash.
In India, Jindal’s family members were proud, and were going to celebrate with the traditional Punjabi folk dance called bhangra.
“We’re very proud that he has reached such a high position in the United States,” said Subhash Jindal, a cousin who runs a pharmacy in the Jindal family’s hometown in Maler Kotla in northern Punjab state.
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