- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

BATON ROUGE, La. — Returns yesterday confirmed that Louisiana voters have narrowed their choice for governor down to the 32-year-old son of Indian immigrants who has never run for office and a 60-year-old Cajun grandmother who is a veteran of state politics.

Republican Bobby Jindal, a Rhodes scholar and former Bush administration official who has taken the state by storm, finished first in Saturday’s open primary.

He will face Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who squeaked past a fellow Democrat, Attorney General Richard Ieyoub, to win the spot to face Mr. Jindal in the Nov. 15 runoff.

Mr. Jindal, a former assistant secretary of health and human services under President Bush who was backed by exiting Gov. Mike Foster, told cheering supporters at a New Orleans hotel late Saturday, “I’m not a professional politician, but I am a problem solver.”

“I’m confident that the work we’ve begun tonight to leave behind the politics of old is going to continue,” he declared, holding his young daughter. “Six months ago when we started this campaign, a lot of experts said Bobby Jindal’s got a lot of great ideas, but he can’t make the runoff. A couple of months ago they said, well, he may make the runoff but he can’t win the runoff. I need your help so at Thanksgiving they’re gonna say, well, he won this time but he can’t win re-election in four years.”

He pledged to wage a positive campaign in the runoff.

Thirty minutes later, with her lead over Mr. Ieyoub unassailable, Mrs. Blanco addressed her cheering supporters in a hotel in her home base of Lafayette as they sang, clapped and danced to a Cajun two-step.

“We have a Cajun woman against an Asian American, and I tell you that speaks to the whole nation, and it says Louisiana is really, really ready for a major change,” she said. “We’re going to leave the old politics behind, and we’re going to start a new day, and it’s going to be a bright day.”

According to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office yesterday, with all but two of the state’s 4,143 precincts counted, Mr. Jindal had 441,951 votes, or 33 percent, to 249,152 votes, or 18 percent, for Mrs. Blanco and 223,089 votes, or 16 percent, for Mr. Ieyoub.

Either runoff candidate would make history: Mr. Jindal as the first U.S. governor of Indian descent and the youngest in Louisiana since Reconstruction; Mrs. Blanco as Louisiana’s first female governor.

There were 17 candidates on the ballot. Under Louisiana’s open primary, all candidates appear on the same ballot, regardless of party affiliation.

Mr. Ieyoub and two other Democrats hold the key to Mrs. Blanco’s chances of overtaking Mr. Jindal. Former U.S. Rep. Buddy Leach finished fourth with 186,733 votes, or 14 percent, and former state Senate President Randy Ewing was fifth with 123,133 votes, or 9 percent.

Democratic State Rep. Mitch Landrieu, son of the late New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu and younger brother of U.S. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, won the lieutenant governorship outright with 53 percent against five Republican challengers.

Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell, who lost a bruising U.S. Senate runoff against Mrs. Landrieu last December, lost her bid to become attorney general to Charles Foti, longtime Orleans Parish criminal sheriff. He had 54 percent to her 46 percent.

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