On Saturday, Nov. 15, voters statewide will elect Louisiana's next governor. The field of candidates has dwindled from 16 at the close of qualifying Aug. 21 to the top two vote-getters from the Oct. 4 primary. The two remaining candidates are Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Lafayette, a veteran of the Legislature, the Public Service Commission and the executive branch, and Bobby Jindal, a 32-year-old biological scientist, governmental health care expert and former university system president from Baton Rouge. Although we endorsed another candidate in the primary, we were impressed with both runoff contenders from the start. Because Louisiana needs new ideas and new energy at this time to move our state forward economically, educationally and politically, we endorse Bobby Jindal as Louisiana's next governor.
A Rhodes scholar and the son of immigrant parents from India, Jindal brings a powerful intellect, boundless energy and a contagious enthusiasm to the task of tackling Louisiana's many problems. Appointed by President George W. Bush as assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Jindal also served as secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals and as executive director of the National Bi-partisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. He previously served as president of the University of Louisiana System, one of the nation's largest systems of higher education. This year, Jindal returned home from Washington, D.C., to run for governor of his native state.
Jindal's youth troubles some, but we think it offers a symbol of hope for a state witnessing the exodus of its children and grandchildren, many of whom are leaving for better opportunities elsewhere. Many also have suggested that electing the son of Indian immigrants will show the world that Louisiana has truly renounced the racism and bigotry associated with David Duke's internationally publicized race for governor in 1991. We agree, but we would quickly add that Jindal's qualifications and ideas matter much more than his ethnicity.
What else matters?
First and foremost, the economy.
For us, this election boils down to a single question: who will get Louisiana moving in the next four years? The answer has become increasingly clear -- Bobby Jindal. He is more direct in his responses to the tough economic questions that vex the New Orleans area, such as expanding Armstrong International Airport, building additional cruise-ship berths and rewriting (over time) the complex but outdated fiscal relationships between the state and local governments. Gov. Bobby Jindal will be good for New Orleans, and that will be good for all of Louisiana.
Bobby Jindal will be a very different kind of governor. He is honest, focused and ready to hit the ground running. Equally important, we find him to be an independent thinker who is not afraid to differ with outgoing Gov. Mike Foster, his political sponsor, over such issues as casino expansion, which Jindal opposes, and the proper role of a governor in promoting economic development. Unlike Foster, who preferred not to leave the state, Jindal promises to travel extensively to promote his vision of a new Louisiana. He also will work to expand our health research facilities, international trade and our regional film and entertainment industries. We are confident that when people outside Louisiana encounter Gov. Bobby Jindal, they will find in him a refreshingly engaging leader who lives and breathes his core agenda: jobs and economic development, better schools, improved health care, and higher ethical standards in government.
At the same time, we acknowledge that some of Jindal's views differ from our own. For example, he is anti-abortion -- with no exceptions. He assures us, however, that he will not spend his political capital pushing an agenda of social conservatism. "When it comes to abortion and life issues, I've got my own strong principled views, but I don't see this as a question for state legislatures," he says. "The federal courts have made it clear this will be under federal jurisdiction, not state legislative jurisdiction. ... I don't think it is necessary for the state to pursue expensive or unnecessary litigation that is going to be fruitless." We agree.
Jindal also says he supports current condom distribution programs to combat AIDS, though he says such decisions should made by local parish health units, not the state. He likewise supports making emergency room contraception available to rape victims who request it. Overall, Jindal promises not to let his personal views detract from his priorities, and that's the signal that moderates have been waiting to hear.
Jindal's priorities -- improving Louisiana's economy, education, health care and ethics -- are shared by Louisianans of all political stripes, which explains why so many Democrats are crossing party lines to support him. Those clearly are the right priorities for our state, and it's clear to us that Jindal is the candidate who can best move Louisiana along all those fronts at once. We therefore add our voice to the growing chorus of those endorsing Bobby Jindal as the next governor of Louisiana.