Jindal wins re-election easily

Published 12:15 am Sunday, October 23, 2011

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal easily coasted to a second term, winning in a landslide election Saturday after failing to attract any well-known or well-funded opposition to oust the popular Republican from office.

Jindal overwhelmed a field of nine competitors in the open primary. He had nearly 67 percent of the vote with nearly all of Louisiana’s precincts reporting.

“I will use every day, every hour of these next four years to make Louisiana the very best that we can be. I don’t believe on resting on our past accomplishments. I don’t believe in taking time off,” Jindal told a packed hotel ballroom of supporters.

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Five of Louisiana’s seven statewide offices were on the ballot, with the most heavily contested races between Republicans vying to be lieutenant governor and secretary of state.

Incumbent Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne held onto his post with 53 percent of the vote, after a fierce battle with Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, in a race that turned bitter quickly. Secretary of State Tom Schedler was locked in a tight contest with House Speaker Jim Tucker, with Schedler in the lead.

In other statewide competitions, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, both Republicans, won re-election, after drawing opposition from little-known candidates who had raised few dollars to campaign against them.

At the top of the ballot was the governor’s race.

The 40-year-old Jindal, who took office in 2008, piled up $15 million in campaign cash from around the nation and attracted no Democratic challengers with statewide name recognition or fundraising heft in the face of his consistently high approval ratings and a near-collapse of the Democratic Party’s clout in the state.

Jindal’s leading challenger, Tara Hollis, a Democrat from north Louisiana, was an outsider to the political establishment and was unable to drum up the cash needed to challenge Jindal or mount a big-ticket advertising competition.

The governor celebrated his re-election with LSU football coach Les Miles, who was rejoicing his team’s explosive victory over Auburn earlier in the day. Comparing the two wins. Jindal told the crowd, “You haven’t seen anything yet.”

“We’ve got a lot more work to do over these next four years. We’ve got to grow our economy even more quickly. We’ve got to reform our education system more aggressively to give our kids the best chance. We’ve got to squeeze all the waste out of government and make it work for the citizens,” he said.

In the next race on the ballot, Dardenne and Schedler, both former state senators, were hoping to keep jobs they’ve held for less than a year. Dardenne was elected lieutenant governor in a special election in 2010, and Schedler, who had been Dardenne’s chief assistant at the secretary of state’s office, moved up into the top job.

During the attack-laden campaign for lieutenant governor, Dardenne and Nungesser accused each other of lying, distortions and shady tactics.

Nungesser, of Port Sulphur, claimed Dardenne exaggerated the cuts he’s made since becoming lieutenant governor 11 months ago, criticized Dardenne as a career politician and said his claims of fiscal conservatism were belied by a series of taxes supported by Dardenne when he was a state senator.

Dardenne, from Baton Rouge, criticized Nungesser for a tax lien against his business, a federal investigation of contracts Nungesser approved after he took office and his donations to Democratic candidates.

The two candidates had different views of the office. Nungesser, best known for his vocal criticism of the federal response to the massive Gulf Coast oil spill, said the office should expand beyond its tourism focus and involve economic development and coastal restoration. Dardenne disagreed, saying marketing the state and boosting the multibillion dollar tourism industry is a full-time job.

The lieutenant governor’s office attracted more attention this election cycle with concerns that Jindal might not stick around to serve his full second term because of his national political ambitions.

Besides being second-in-line to the governor, Louisiana’s lieutenant governor is the overseer of the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, which manages several museums, state parks and the state library.

Nungesser plowed at least $1.3 million of his own cash into his campaign.

In the secretary of state’s race, Schedler ran on his four years of experience working in management of the office, saying he’s shown strong leadership as Louisiana’s top elections official.

Tucker, who was term-limited from running again for his House seat, said the secretary of state’s office should do more to encourage voter participation, to work with the state’s economic development department to foster small business creation and to oversee small museums around Louisiana.

Both men are from the New Orleans area, Schedler from Mandeville and Tucker from Terrytown.

The secretary of state oversees the state’s elections and archiving of state records; registration of business names and trademarks; incorporation of new businesses; and operation of more than a dozen museums.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, who switched to the GOP last year, and Republican Treasurer John Kennedy faced no challengers and will begin new terms in January. Kennedy, who will enter his fourth term in office, is Louisiana’s longest-serving statewide elected official.