BATON ROUGE, La. – U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal won the Louisiana governor’s race Saturday, becoming the nation’s youngest governor and the first non-white to hold the state’s post since Reconstruction.
Jindal, the Republican 36-year-old son of Indian immigrants, carried more than half the vote against 11 opponents. With about 87 percent of the vote in, Jindal had 53 percent with 588,002 – more than enough to win outright and avoid a Nov. 17 runoff.
“Let’s give our homeland, the great state of Louisiana, a fresh start,” Jindal said to cheers and applause from a crowd that began chanting his name at his victory party.
His nearest competitors: Democrat Walter Boasso with 196,104 votes or 18 percent; Independent John Georges with 156,962 votes or 14 percent; and, Democrat Foster Campbell with 141,346 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.
When he takes office in January, Jindal will become the nation’s youngest governor in office.
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 announced months ago that she would not seek re-election.
“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.