Jindal path set for victory

Gov. Bobby Jindal delivers his victory speech at the Renaissance Hotel after it became clear Saturday that he had won a second term by a landslide.
Gov. Bobby Jindal delivers his victory speech at the Renaissance Hotel after it became clear Saturday that he had won a second term by a landslide.

Michelle Millhollon

Advocate Capitol news bureau

Victory came with little fight

By garnering 66 percent of the vote Saturday for a landslide re-election, Gov. Bobby Jindal won by one of the largest margins in modern Louisiana history.

Political experts said a number of factors contributed to Jindal’s easy slide into a second term, including:

• The unpopularity in Louisiana of the Democratic Obama administration.

e_SBlt The lack of a well-financed opponent to the Republican governor, coupled with the millions of dollars that Jindal stockpiled for his campaign.

e_SBlt Jindal’s advocacy of lower taxes, a business-friendly climate and charter schools resonating with voters.

e_SBlt The sophistication of Jindal’s campaign operation.

“This is not just an accidental thing,” LSU political science professor James Garand said. “The reason Gov. Jindal did not have a serious challenger is because he placed himself in a position where all the serious challengers realized he would be difficult to beat.

“It’s hard not to interpret this as a mandate,” Garand said.

Jindal was expected to discuss plans for his second term early this week. His inauguration will be Jan. 9.

All seven of Louisiana’s statewide elected officials, all Republicans, won their re-election bids — two of them without competition.

In addition to Jindal, retaining their seats are Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, Secretary of State Tom Schedler, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, Treasurer John Kennedy, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain.

Three education board seats are headed to a Nov. 19 runoff that will determine whether Jindal gets the supermajority he’s seeking to control the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Also, a string of legislative competitions won’t be decided until next month. But what is clear is that Republicans will maintain majorities in both the Louisiana House and Senate.

Schedler claimed victory over his opponent, House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, with an advantage of less than 1 percentage point. Schedler won by about 8,500 votes out of more than 890,000 cast.

Tucker conceded the race Sunday on his Facebook page and congratulated Schedler on the win.

Neither Schedler nor Tucker responded to interview requests Sunday.

Parish elections supervisors will open each voting machine to verify the results and send statements compiling the findings to the Secretary of State’s Office, which has until 12 days after the election to certify the outcome.

“It usually doesn’t take us the full 12 days to promulgate, and I’m not aware of any problems,” Elections Commissioner Angie Rogers said Sunday.

Unofficial figures from the Secretary of State’s Office peg voter turnout at less than 36 percent. About 1 million of Louisiana’s 2.8 million registered voters went to the polls, the fewest number of voters to cast ballots in a governor’s race since Louisiana switched to the open primary system in 1975.

University of Louisiana at Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross said Jindal captured nearly every vote he could, considering he was unlikely to chip into the 30 percent bloc of black voters.

Cross said only 4 percent of the votes that Jindal had a realistic opportunity of garnering eluded him.

“Bobby Jindal bumped pretty closely to the limits of the possible,” he said. “Nationwide, I think people will respect that number and will say that makes him an extremely popular governor in the state of Louisiana.”

Throughout history, most Louisiana governors win in a runoff.

Jindal lost to Kathleen Blanco in the 2003 runoff only to come back four years later and win the primary outright, an almost unheard of feat for a non-incumbent.

For his first term in office, Jindal grappled with a recession, rising unemployment, persistent poverty and under-performing schools. He also dealt with back-to-back hurricanes and the BP oil disaster. He published a book and traveled the country raising money for his re-election bid.

Former Gov. Mike Foster, who won his re-election bid in 1999 with 62 percent of the vote, said Jindal operates differently from many politicians.

“He’s not flashy. He doesn’t do things that are unusual,” he said of Jindal, who was his health secretary.

Foster said the oil spill, the hurricanes and the lack of huge scandals aided Jindal’s re-election bid. Louisiana voters’ dissatisfaction with the Democratic White House also played a part in Jindal’s victory, he said.

Jindal carried all but four parishes by more than 50 percent of the vote. He fared the poorest in the parishes of Avoyelles, East Carroll, Orleans and St. Helena.

Orleans Parish is a Democratic stronghold, as are the parishes of East Carroll and St. Helena. Avoyelles is where Jindal triggered an outcry earlier this year by proposing to lay off workers at a prison that is one of the parish’s main employers.

Jindal’s best returns were in parishes with high white populations such as Cameron, Lafourche, St. Tammany and Beauregard parishes.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, he carried 51 percent of the vote, slightly down from the 54 percent he got in 2007.

Coming in a distant second to Jindal was Haynesville schoolteacher Tara Hollis. Hollis, a Democrat, captured 18 percent of the vote statewide.

Hollis, whose last campaign finance report showed she had less than $500 in the bank, said she was surprised by the magnitude of Jindal’s victory margin. She attributed it to money.

If she spent 22 cents per vote, Jindal spent $11 per vote, Hollis said.

“I believe it comes down to money,” she said. “People aren’t as focused on the party as they are on the establishment.”

At Jindal’s victory party Saturday night, the celebration started soon after the polls closed. Supporters barely had time to taste the catfish and swallow their drinks before the governor was on stage celebrating a trend that continued throughout the night. Unlike the close race for secretary of state, Jindal never slipped in the returns.

Jindal basked in his lead, lingering to greet supporters long after the stage filled with his family and staff emptied.

“We’ve got the opportunity to do great things,” he said. “Let us enjoy this moment.”

Jordan Blum of The Advocate’s Capitol news bureau and Melinda Deslatte of The Associated Press contributed to this report.