- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Gov.-elect Kathleen Blanco, the first woman to win the job in Louisiana, yesterday started piecing together a new administration.

Mrs. Blanco, the state’s Democratic lieutenant governor, defeated Republican Indian-American Bobby Jindal in a runoff election Saturday.

“After we hugged everyone and received congratulations from everyone, we got down to the business of organizing,” Mrs. Blanco, 60, said yesterday.

The new governor, who will be inaugurated Jan. 12, said she has already had an emergency-preparedness briefing and plans immediate meetings with the heads of Louisiana’s major businesses. She said she had not developed a firm timetable on when she would name the members of her administration.

Republicans had been on a roll in 2003, winning gubernatorial elections in California, Mississippi and Kentucky, before Saturday’s Democratic victory in Louisiana.

Mrs. Blanco’s election returns the state’s governorship to Democratic hands after eight years of Republican Gov. Mike Foster’s administration. Term limits prevented Mr. Foster from running again, but he had thrown his support behind Mr. Jindal, 32, his protege who served as an assistant health secretary under President Bush.

Mrs. Blanco won with 52 percent, or 730,737 votes, to Mr. Jindal’s 48 percent, or 676,180. More than half of Louisiana’s 2.7 million registered voters cast ballots, an unexpectedly high turnout.

Mr. Jindal congratulated Mrs. Blanco yesterday.

“Today is certainly a new day for Louisiana, and today should be Kathleen’s day,” he said. “We offer our governor-elect our heartiest support and will do anything we can to help her.”

Mr. Jindal led in most polls before Saturday’s election. “This race happened in the last 72 hours,” said Elliott Stonecipher, a Shreveport political consultant who said the Jindal campaign “got overconfident.”

Mrs. Blanco carried 52 parishes to Mr. Jindal’s 12 in unofficial voting results. She took most of her native Cajun area and won by a large margin in New Orleans, where many Democrats were angered that Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin endorsed Mr. Jindal.

Halfway around the world, meanwhile, Mr. Jindal’s Indian relatives canceled a planned celebration.

“If Piyush had won, we would have celebrated in full style,” said his cousin, Narinder Jindal, using Bobby Jindal’s Punjabi name. “We had invited many of our relatives. There were going to be firecrackers and beating of drums, and we placed a huge order of sweets.”

Mr. Jindal’s father migrated to the United States 33 years ago from Maler Kotla, in Punjab, to settle in Baton Rouge, where the Republican candidate was born. Piyush Jindal later picked the name “Bobby” for himself after a character on the television show “The Brady Bunch.”

“It’s discouraging, but he is only 32 years old, with his whole life in front of him,” said relative Surinder Jindal. “He will definitely rise again.”

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