- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2003

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana goes its own way in politics, veering forward, backward or crawfish-wise.

Now, the state of the populist Longs, Huey and Earl, of the flamboyant and now-jailed Edwin Edwards, and of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke is cracking the political mold again.

Bobby Jindal, a son of immigrants from India whose given name was Piyush, is topping polls in the governor’s race and astonishing political observers. The 32-year-old Rhodes-scholar Republican left the Bush administration seven months ago to run for governor.

His strongly conservative message has neutralized ethnicity as an issue. With radio spots mocking gun control and extolling the Ten Commandments, and with his opposition to affirmative action and favorable eye toward creationism in schools, the Indian Mr. Jindal is getting support from the same voters who backed Mr. Duke. His fervent belief in the American dream plays well in Louisiana.

“I’m against all quotas, all set-asides,” he said at a recent forum. “America is the greatest. We got ahead by hard work. We shouldn’t respond to every problem with a government program.”

Also appealing in religious, rural Louisiana, he’s a teenage convert to Catholicism from his parents’ Hinduism.

Saturday’s election is an 18-candidate open primary, a free-for-all unique to Louisiana. To win the election, a candidate must draw more than 50 percent of the vote. If no one gets that majority, a runoff election will be held Nov. 15.

Mr. Jindal faces a field of veteran politicians — including Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Attorney General Richard Ieyoub, both Democrats, and a pair of ex-legislative leaders, Democrat Randy Ewing and Republican Hunt Downer.

Recent polls have shown Mr. Jindal, Mrs. Blanco and the percentage of undecided voters more or less even — between 18 and 22 percent. Mr. Ieyoub is running third.

Mr. Jindal won’t talk about his fund raising, but with $1.3 million on hand, according to the latest campaign-finance reports, he is far in front of the other candidates.

Some of that money has come from Indian-Americans nationwide.

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