Pro-Life, Anti-Tax Indian-American Elected La. Governor

By Terence P. Jeffrey | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT


(CNSNews.com) - Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal, a pro-life, pro-gun, anti-tax Rhodes scholar, won a landslide victory to become governor of Louisiana on Saturday. An Indian-American, he is the first person of color to be elected governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction.

"Today, we begin a new chapter in the history of Louisiana," Jindal said in his victory speech. He promised to root out "corruption" and "incompetence," and he said he'd be the kind of governor "who travels the state relentlessly" in an effort to turn things around.

"As I promised in the campaign, right after I'm sworn in, I'm going to notify the legislature that I will be calling them in for a special session to pass real ethics reform with real teeth," Jindal said.

Jindal took 54 percent of the vote in Louisiana's unique election system in which all candidates of all parties run in a single October primary. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote in the primary, the top two candidates face each other in a November runoff.

Jindal's 54 percent obviated the need for a runoff. His nearest competitor, Democrat Walter Boasso, won only 18 percent of the vote.

Jindal, 36, was born in Baton Rouge, La. His parents were immigrants from India.

In 2003, Jindal failed in his first bid to become governor of Louisiana, when, at the age of 32, he lost a hard-fought election to Democrat Kathleen Blanco, who did not seek reelection this year. After losing that gubernatorial race, Jindal went on to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004 and again in 2006.

In his three years in the House, he amassed a 96 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union.

He is known for his intellect and his unapologetic conservatism. He graduated from Brown University with a perfect 4.0 grade point average after studying there for only three and a half years. He was admitted to both the medical and law schools at both Harvard and Yale, but decided to attend Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar instead.

In the closing days of Jindal's 2003 gubernatorial race against Blanco, the Democratic Party of Louisiana distributed a flier attacking what it described as Jindal's "extreme position" on abortion, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that year, although Blanco also described herself as pro-life.

Jindal has never backed down from that position, which he described to the Times-Picayune as "100 percent pro-life with no exceptions." "I believe all life is precious," Jindal told the paper in 2003.

Jindal was endorsed in this year's gubernatorial race by the National Rifle Association. He also signed the anti-tax pledge sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform.

After Hurricane Katrina struck his state, Jindal won passage of legislation that protected Americans from having their guns confiscated in the wake of a disaster.

"You need to be able to defend yourself, your family and your property," Jindal said, according to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. "With the legislation that we were able to pass, if there is a national threat, you don't have to worry about them taking away your rights."

When the NRA endorsed Jindal for governor this year, according the Daily Advertiser, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said: "You have something in a political leader that's rare, that's special. Bobby Jindal wants to protect individual freedoms, like owning firearms. He really has in his heart a desire to do good by people."

As with his position on abortion, Jindal is unapologetic about his position on gun rights. "I am thrilled to have the NRA support me and be by my side," Jindal said after receiving the group's endorsement, according to the Daily Advertiser.

As noted by the publication India Abroad, Jindal has taken heat from some Indian-American groups for his conservative positions on immigration reform and border security. He opposed President Bush's proposal to give illegal aliens currently in the United States what some Republican critics termed "amnesty," and he supported tough immigration-enforcement legislation when the Republicans controlled the House of Representatives prior to the 2006 elections.

"[W]e already know that drugs and hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants come across our borders now every year, and that is simply not acceptable," Jindal was quoted as saying in India Abroad. "Without security along our borders, biological or nuclear weapons could be smuggled into our country across unmanned portions of our border and used against the residents of our country.

"As the only member on the Homeland security Committee from Louisiana, I have made protecting our country a priority, and I have been a vocal advocate for legislation to ensure the security of our nation," he said.

"[O]ur nation cannot be serious about protecting our country from the threat of terrorism without securing our borders and preventing illegal immigration. I will continue to be a vocal advocate in Congress for launching more common sense initiatives to address this serious issue," said Jindal.

When he initially ran for governor in 2003, Jindal was the first gubernatorial candidate in the nation in that election cycle to sign the Americans for Tax Reform pledge promising not to raise taxes.

"Voters have a right to know the true intentions of anybody running for Governor," he said in a press release that year. "If someone refuses to sign the pledge because they intend to increase taxes -- that is their prerogative. While I disagree with this approach, it will allow voters to decide for or against tax increases on Election Day. If you do not plan to increase taxes, then you will have no problem signing this pledge."

Jindal, fresh from his time at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, was named Louisiana's secretary of Health and Hospitals at the age of 24. He later became executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare, and then president of the University of Louisiana system, overseeing the state's public colleges.

He will be the first nonwhite to serve as governor of Louisiana since the 1872-73 term of P.B.S. Pinchback, an African-American Republican.

Jindal and his wife, Supriya, have three children. ("I suspect the Governor's mansion will become a bit of a playground soon, but we promise not to let them color on the walls," Jindal joked in his victory speech on Saturday.)

See Earlier Stories:
Louisiana Gubernatorial Candidate Excites Indian-Americans (14 Oct. 2003)
College Dems Anger Indian-Americans for Attack on GOP Candidate (10 Oct. 2003)


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