NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, seen as a rising star in the Republican Party, won re-election on Saturday as voters largely ignored his nine poorly funded challengers.
“You’ve chosen to give me another four years as your governor,” he told supporters 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.”
With more than 99 percent of precincts reporting, Jindal carried 66 percent of the vote with his nearest challenger, Democratic school teacher Tara Hollis, taking 18 percent. None of the remaining eight candidates moved out of single digits.
Jindal, whose vote count allowed him to bypass a November runoff, has been viewed as a potential vice presidential contender. But he 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.
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.
Pinsonat said the key to what Jindal did next was the 2012 presidential election. “If (Democrat) Barack Obama is re-elected, Jindal will throw himself 100 percent into running for president in 2016,” Pinsonat 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.
Secretary of State Jay Dardenne carried 53 percent of the vote against 47 percent for Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser in that race.
Louisiana’s open primary system pits candidates of all parties against one another on one ballot. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the highest contenders meet in a runoff election.
It was Jindal’s third race for governor. He lost in 2003 to Democrat Kathleen Blanco, who won 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.
Editing by Cynthia Johnston