- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2003

LAFAYETTE, La. — Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco made state history yesterday when she became the first woman elected to the Louisiana Statehouse after narrowly defeating Republican Bobby Jindal.

In doing so, Mrs. Blanco, 60, saved Democrats from a Republican sweep of governorships this election season and stopped an all-Republican Southern gubernatorial delegation. Republicans captured governorships in Kentucky and Mississippi on Nov. 4 and in California last month.

With 99 percent of precincts counted, Mrs. Blanco had 52 percent of the votes (725,500) while Mr. Jindal garnered 48 percent (672,241).

Mrs. Blanco addressed cheering supporters at the Hilton Hotel here at a party that featured a Cajun band and was attended by Sen. Mary L. Landrieu and Rep. Chris John.

“You have demanded change and we will deliver. We will usher in a new era in Louisiana,” Mrs. Blanco told a cheering crowd.

Then she thanked her opponent and his family.

“We wish them the very best in their future endeavors. We will be one Louisiana,” the governor-elect said.

Mr. John reflected on the importance of Mrs. Blanco’s victory.

“We not only slowed the Republican train tonight, we stopped it in its tracks,” Mr. John told the audience.

Pollsters and pundits had predicted a close race between the two conservative candidates since the Oct. 4 runoff election.

Mr. Jindal delivered a lengthy concession speech at the Astor Hotel in New Orleans, where he joked, “At least the Tigers won,” referring to Louisiana’s State University’s football team victory over the University of Alabama yesterday.

“I’m disappointed, but not discouraged. Even though we did not win, I believe we succeeded.”

He never mentioned Mrs. Blanco in his concession.

This campaign also was unusual because both Mr. Jindal, who never has held elective office, and Mrs. Blanco are both conservative, Catholic and pro-life. Louisiana has not had a Catholic governor since 1888.

Mrs. Blanco served in the state House of Representatives and on the Public Service Commission before becoming lieutenant governor in 1995. She replaces Gov. Mike Foster, who has held the office for eight years and couldn’t seek re-election because of term limits.

The election would have been historic no matter what the outcome: Mrs. Blanco elected as the first woman or Mr. Jindal elected as the first Indian-American to hold a governorship. Had he been elected, Mr. Jindal, a Rhodes scholar, would have been the country’s youngest governor and the youngest to serve Louisiana since Reconstruction.

Mr. Jindal has been labeled an administrative wunderkind who was assistant secretary of health and human services in the Bush administration. The departing Mr. Foster appointed Mr. Jindal head of the state hospital system at age 26.

Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, was instrumental in securing him a one-year appointment as head of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. Mr. Foster then appointed him president of the University of Louisiana system, despite his not having a doctorate.

Political historian Gordon Harvey of Monroe, La., attributed Mrs. Blanco’s win to any one of three factors: a high turnout among black voters, a lower-than-hoped-for black vote for Mr. Jindal, and the decision by conservative Democrats to vote for Mrs. Blanco instead of Mr. Jindal.

Blacks account for 27 percent of the state’s 2.8 million registered voters.

Mr. Harvey also theorized that “Louisiana voters were able to discriminate between a state Democrat and a national Democrat.”

“Republicans in state races, especially in the South, have been successful at blurring, if not erasing, the lines and differences between more conservative-to-moderate state Democrats and liberal national Democrats. I haven’t heard any Republican in this campaign associate Blanco with Ted Kennedy or Hillary Clinton, as we saw in the [Mary] Landrieu v. [Suzanne] Terrell Senate bout [last December].”

The two candidates were the top finishers in a field of 17 candidates in the Oct. 4 open primary. Mr. Jindal finished with 33 percent, Mrs. Blanco 18 percent.


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