Louisiana Elects First Woman Governor

Louisiana voters elected their first woman governor in the state’s history on Saturday. Two-time Lt. Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) beat Bobby Jindal (R) with 52 percent of the vote, scoring the only victory for Democrats in the four gubernatorial elections this year. However, Blanco is a conservative Democrat, against abortion, affirmative action, and gun control, according to the New York Times. Despite these positions, the New York Times reports that she did well among women and received 91 percent of the African American vote. Blanco replaces Republican Mike Foster, who was prevented from running again because of the state’s term limits. Except for an African American Republican who served as governor for 35 days, the state has only ever had white male governors, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Blanco has been a woman of many firsts. In 1984, she became the first woman ever elected to represent Lafayette in the State Legislature, and two terms later became the first woman elected to the Louisiana Public Service Commission. She claims her work as lieutenant governor, a position that is elected independently of the governor, turned Louisiana tourism from a $6.5 billion to a $9 billion industry, the Times-Picayune reports.

The election was watched closely across the nation and in India, as Jindal looked poised to become the first American of Indian descent to be elected governor in the US. Despite influxes of cash from the Indian-American community and a crucial endorsement from the African American mayor of New Orleans, Democrat Ray Nagin, Jindal picked up the most votes in wealthy white suburbs and in his hometown of Baton Rouge, the NY Times reports. Jindal had a ten-point lead several days before the election, but lost ground after Blanco ran an ad strongly criticizing Jindal for cutting state health budgets when he was in charge of the state health department, the Times reports. Jindal also took strong stands against abortion, affirmative action, and gun control.

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New York Times 11/17/03; Christian Science Monitor 11/17/03; Times-Picayune 11/16/03

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