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Jindal wins re-election as Louisiana governor

- Associated Press - Sunday, October 23, 2011

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — It was a landslide win by any measure.

Gov. Bobby Jindal had a cakewalk into a second term, turning back nine challengers who couldn't muster name recognition or significant financing to put up a major challenge.

It was an uncommon turn of events in a state where gubernatorial races usually are spirited and high-spending affairs.

And since Louisiana went to an open-primary system in 1975, it was the most lopsided primary victory in a governor's race.

Mr. Jindal overwhelmed a field of nine competitors in the open primary, getting 66 percent of the vote.

"I will use every day, every hour of these next four years to make Louisiana the very best that we can be. I don't believe on resting on our past accomplishments. I don't believe in taking time off," Mr. Jindal told a packed hotel ballroom of supporters.

All seven of Louisiana's statewide elected officials will continue new terms in January.

Incumbent Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne held onto his post with 53 percent of the vote, after a fierce battle with Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser in a race that turned bitter quickly. Secretary of State Tom Schedler squeaked to victory in a tight contest with House Speaker Jim Tucker, receiving just over 50 percent support. All four men are Republicans.

In other statewide competitions, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, both in the GOP, won re-election after drawing opposition from little-known candidates who had raised few dollars to campaign against them.

At the top of the ballot was the governor's race.

The 40-year-old Mr. Jindal, who took office in 2008, piled up $15 million in campaign cash from around the nation and attracted no Democratic challengers with statewide name recognition or fundraising heft in the face of his consistently high approval ratings and a near-collapse of the Democratic Party's clout in the state.

Mr. Jindal's leading challenger, Tara Hollis, a Democrat from north Louisiana, was an outsider to the political establishment and was unable to drum up the cash needed to challenge Mr. Jindal or mount a big-ticket advertising competition.

Spending only a few thousand dollars, Ms. Hollis received support from 18 percent of voters. All the other candidates were in single digits.

The governor celebrated his re-election with LSU football coach Les Miles, who was rejoicing his team's explosive victory over Auburn earlier in the day. Comparing the two wins, Mr. Jindal told the crowd, "You haven't seen anything yet.

"We've got a lot more work to do over these next four years. We've got to grow our economy even more quickly. We've got to reform our education system more aggressively to give our kids the best chance. We've got to squeeze all the waste out of government and make it work for the citizens," he said.

In the next races on the ballot, Mr. Dardenne and Mr. Schedler, both former state senators, will keep jobs they've held for less than a year. Mr. Dardenne was elected lieutenant governor in a special election in 2010, and Mr. Schedler, who had been Mr. Dardenne's chief assistant in the secretary of state's office, moved up into the top job.

During the attack-laden campaign for lieutenant governor, Mr. Dardenne and Mr. Nungesser accused each other of lying, distortions and shady tactics.

Mr. Nungesser, of Port Sulphur, claimed Mr. Dardenne exaggerated the cuts he's made since becoming lieutenant governor 11 months ago, criticized Mr. Dardenne as a career politician and said his claims of fiscal conservatism were belied by a series of taxes supported by Mr. Dardenne when he was a state senator.

Mr. Dardenne, from Baton Rouge, criticized Mr. Nungesser for a tax lien against his business, a federal investigation of contracts Mr. Nungesser approved after he took office and his donations to Democratic candidates.

The two candidates had different views of the office. Mr. Nungesser, best known for his vocal criticism of the federal response to the massive Gulf Coast oil spill, said the office should expand beyond its tourism focus and involve economic development and coastal restoration. Mr. Dardenne disagreed, saying marketing the state and boosting the multibillion dollar tourism industry is a full-time job.

The lieutenant governor's office attracted more attention this election cycle with concerns that Mr. Jindal might not stick around to serve his full second term because of his national political ambitions.

Mr. Nungesser plowed at least $1.3 million of his own cash into his campaign.

In the secretary of state's race, Mr. Schedler ran on his four years of experience working in management of the office, saying he's shown strong leadership as Louisiana's top elections official.

Mr. Tucker, who was term-limited from running again for his House seat, said the secretary of state's office should do more to encourage voter participation, to work with the state's economic development department to foster small business creation and to oversee small museums around Louisiana.

Both men are from the New Orleans area, Mr. Schedler from Mandeville and Mr. Tucker from Terrytown.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, who switched to the GOP last year, and Republican Treasurer John Kennedy faced no challengers and will begin new terms in January. Mr. Kennedy, who will enter his fourth term in office, is Louisiana's longest-serving statewide elected official.

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