Jindal Wins Louisiana Race, Becomes First Indian American Governor

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 21, 2007

MIAMI, Oct. 20 -- Rep. Bobby Jindal (R) became the nation's first Indian American governor Saturday, outpolling 11 rivals in Louisiana and drawing enough votes to avoid a runoff election next month.

With about 90 percent of the state's nearly 4,000 precincts reporting, Jindal had 53 percent of the vote. His nearest competitor, state Sen. Walter J. Boasso (D), had 18 percent.

Louisiana holds an open gubernatorial election, with candidates of all parties competing. By drawing at least 50 percent of the vote, Jindal avoided a Nov. 17 runoff race with Boasso.

"Let's give our homeland, the great state of Louisiana, a fresh start," Jindal said to a cheering crowd at his victory party, according to the Associated Press.

Jindal, 36, was making his second attempt to become Louisiana's first nonwhite governor since Reconstruction. The last one was P.B.S. Pinchback, a black Republican who served briefly between 1872 and 1873, at a time when many white voters were disenfranchised.

Jindal, whose given name is Piyush, is the American-born son of Indian immigrants; his parents moved from New Delhi to Baton Rouge so his mother could take graduate classes at Louisiana State University.

But the son charted a new course in the new country.

When he was 4, he decided to call himself Bobby -- after the youngest son on the "Brady Bunch" television show. In high school, he gave up Hinduism and became a Christian; and during his first year at Brown University, he was baptized as a Roman Catholic. His wife, Supriya, is also a Catholic convert.

On the campaign trail, his origins often aroused curiosity and comment. But Jindal sometimes deflected related questions.

"People want to make everything about race," he said during one of the debates. "The only colors that matter here are red, white and blue."

Jindal has earned a political reputation as a brainy, busy wonk, one who is inclined to give a 31-point statement on an issue.

After graduating magna cum laude from Brown and being selected as a Rhodes Scholar, Jindal worked for two years as a consultant at McKinsey and Co. He then talked his way into his first high-profile political job, as Louisiana's secretary of health and hospitals. In 2001, he joined the Bush administration as the assistant health and human services secretary for planning and evaluation.

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