Jindal Wins Louisiana Governorship; Republican Congressman Avoids Runoff

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert Buckman, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

BATON ROUGE, La. - Rep. Bobby Jindal coasted to a first-round victory in the state's gubernatorial primary late last night and made history as the nation's first governor-elect of Indian-American descent.

At 36, the two-term Republican congressman also will be the country's youngest governor when he takes office in January. Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, a fellow Republican, turns 37 next month.

Mr. Jindal and his 11 challengers were running to replace Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a Democrat who decided in March not to run for re-election. She was widely criticized for her handling of the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Mrs. Blanco had defeated Mr. Jindal in the 2003 runoff election.

At 11 p.m. local time last night, with 87 percent of the precincts reporting, Mr. Jindal had 588,002 votes (53 percent), enough to avoid a Nov. 17 runoff. His closest challenger, millionaire state Sen. Walter Boasso, a Democrat, had 196,104 votes (18 percent), followed by New Orleans businessman John Georges, an independent, with 156,962 (14 percent) and Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat, with 141,346 votes (13 percent).

"Let's give the homeland, the great state of Louisiana, a fresh start," Mr. Jindal said at the Holiday Inn Select in Baton Rouge late last night.

A lackluster turnout by black voters, who make up nearly 30 percent of the state's 2.8 million registered voters, was seen as the primary reason Mr. Jindal's three closest opponents could not marshal enough votes to force a runoff.

It marks the first time a non-incumbent has won the governorship without a runoff.

"Usually [when there's no incumbent], you have more than one major candidate," New Orleans pollster Ed Renwick said. "This time, we had one major candidate and a lot of candidates bunched together in second place."

The primary win was a dramatic comeback for Mr. Jindal, a Rhodes scholar who had capitalized on his reputation as an administrative wunderkind and problem solver when he ran for governor in 2003. …