New Orleans: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, seen as a rising star in the Republican party, declared victory on Saturday in his state's gubernatorial election as voters largely ignored his nine challengers.
"You've chosen to give me another four years as your Governor," he told supporters from a stage at his Baton Rouge campaign headquarters less than an hour after polls closed. "We've got a lot more work to do over these next four years."
Jindal, whose win on Saturday will allow him to bypass a November runoff election, has been viewed as a potential vice-presidential contender but has said he would serve out his term as governor if re-elected.
"I will use every day, every hour of these next four years to make Louisiana the best it can be," he said on Saturday.
Early returns showed Jindal with 68 percent of the vote, with 50 percent of precincts reporting.
While political analysts have predicted for weeks that Jindal would leave his challengers in the dust, the Governor didn't take the election for granted.
In a three-week period ending in early October, his campaign spent more than USD 100,000 a day on television advertising and automated phone pitches, according to reports filed with the Louisiana Ethics Administration.
Voters are unlikely to be surprised, however, if Jindal leaves office early. Once seen as a possible presidential contender himself, Jindal has since endorsed Texas Governor Rick Perry for the Republican nomination.
"Jindal doesn't aim low," said Bernie Pinsonat, a Baton Rouge political analyst and pollster. "I don't think anybody in Louisiana thinks that Bobby Jindal doesn't have ambitions to be president," he said.
The possibility that Jindal, 40, will not serve out his full second term contributed to a hotly contested race for Louisiana's lieutenant governor seat.
Current Secretary of State Jay Dardenne squared off with Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser in that race. Early results showed Dardenne leading with more than 53 percent of the vote.
Looking to future
Pinsonat said the key to what Jindal does next is the 2012 Presidential Election. "If Barack Obama is re-elected, Jindal will throw himself 100 percent into running for president in 2016," Pinsonat said.
On the other hand, if a Republican should knock Obama out of office, Jindal might settle for a run at the Senate, biding his time for a later run at the presidency.
Political analysts in the state have said the election marked one of the first times when the incumbent has not been challenged by at least one elected official.
Louisiana's open primary system pits candidates of all parties against each other on one ballot. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the highest contenders will meet in a runoff election.
This is Jindal's third race for governor. He lost in 2003 to Democrat Kathleen Blanco, who won in a runoff with 51 percent of the vote. In 2007, he beat 12 other candidates and won 54 percent of the vote without a runoff.
The Times-Picayune in New Orleans endorsed the incumbent this week. The editorial said that although the Governor has "too often seemed detached from the legislative process and was frequently distracted by the national Republican spotlight" they trust him to succeed in his second term.
The other candidates included Democratic school teacher Tara Hollis; independent Ron Ceasar, an accountant and progressive activist; Democrat Androniki Papazoglakis, a policy director for a non-profit dealing with domestic violence issues; Democrat Trey Roberts, a history teacher; Libertarian Scott Lewis, a previous candidate for secretary of state; and Cary Deaton, a Democratic attorney.
First Published: Sunday, October 23, 2011, 09:16