- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 5, 2003

NEW ORLEANS — Bobby Jindal, 32, an Ivy League-educated Rhodes scholar whose parents were born in India, racked up an impressive first-place showing yesterday in Louisiana’s crowded open primary for governor.

There was a close race for the No. 2 spot to face Mr. Jindal, a Republican making his first bid for elective office, in the Nov. 15 runoff between Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco, 60, and Attorney General Richard Ieyoub, 59, both Democrats.

At 10 p.m. CDT, with 54 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Jindal had 35 percent, with Mrs. Blanco and Mr. Ieyoub each garnering 17 percent; Mrs. Blanco had a lead of 3,200 votes over Mr. Ieyoub.

A total of 17 candidates were on the ballot to succeed the popular two-term Republican Gov. Mike Foster, who cannot run for a third consecutive term. Under Louisiana’s unique open primary systems, all candidates regardless of party affiliation appear on a single ballot.

Mrs. Blanco had been the front-runner in the polls until the final week, when the polls showed her slipping behind Mr. Jindal and into a statistical tie with Mr. Ieyoub.

Mr. Jindal, born in Baton Rouge of Indian parents, earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University in Providence, R.I., and a master’s degree from Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar. He is a Catholic.

Voter turnout was heavy yesterday. The Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office predicted a turnout of 65 percent of the state’s nearly 2.8 million registered voters.

Mr. Jindal, an administrative whiz-kid who served as assistant secretary of health and human services in the Bush administration from 2001 to 2003, has the backing of Mr. Foster, who appointed him secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals when Mr. Jindal was 26.

He headed the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare and served as president of the University of Louisiana system for two years.

“This is historic,” said Ron Gomez, a former state legislator and now a political consultant for KATC-TV in Lafayette. “This is the first time since Huey Long that a governor has actively sought to influence the election of his successor.”

Mr. Jindal is but the latest political phenomenon to stir excitement a state that has a long history of producing colorful political characters, including the flamboyant populists Huey and Earl Long, singer Jimmie Davis, wheeler-dealer and womanizer Edwin Edwards and white supremacist David Duke.

Despite Mr. Jindal’s appeal, Mr. Pinsonat said that he still will be at a disadvantage in a runoff against Mrs. Blanco. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 1.6 million to 646,000; another 543,000 are independents.

“This is still a Democratic state,” he said. “She’ll get 90 percent of the black vote, so she just needs to get 35 percent of the white vote. It’s simple mathematics.”

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