Bayou Boy Wonder

Bayou Boy Wonder - Louisiana elects a reform governor. What's next?


Mr. Jindal jumped into this year's campaign promising to shake up a state government whose antigrowth policies have prompted Forbes magazine to rank Louisiana 49th out of 50 states as a place to do business. Even before Katrina, it was the only Southern state with more people moving out than in. The "bright flight" of the state's most promising young people became the most important symbolic issue of the race.

Mr. Jindal applied the political lessons he learned from his 2003 loss. Back then, it was generally conceded that he lost some northern Louisiana parishes in part because he failed to campaign enough there to dispel lingering concerns about his ethnicity (he is Indian-American). This time he visited northern Louisiana 77 times, and it paid off. He carried Rapides Parish (Alexandria) with 54% of the vote, up from 44% four years ago.

One reason Mr. Jindal was able to win votes across ethnic and demographic lines is that while he treats his Indian background as an overall plus, he won't trade on it. He has in the past left the space for "race" on government documents blank. "I'm against all quotas, all set-asides," he says. "America is the greatest. We got ahead by hard work. We shouldn't respond to every problem with a government program. Here, anyone can succeed."

Mr. Jindal is full of ideas for how to improve government. He plans to use his health-care expertise to help the uninsured obtain health insurance. The way to do that, he says, is to work with the three-fourths of the uninsured who have jobs. He proposes insurance pools in which small businesses can join together to get lower-cost premiums and giving the private sector a greater role in provision of health care for the poor.

He plans tax cuts and an expansion of school choice. Part of his philosophy is that the federal government can't be Louisiana's salvation. "New Orleans has suffered from the trauma of three crises," he told The Wall Street Journal last year. "First was Katrina, second was the levees breaking, and the third has been a case study in bureaucracy and red tape at its very worst."

Bureaucracy busting is Mr. Jindal's specialty, and he has already announced he will call the Legislature into special session shortly after he is sworn in and demand an up-or-down vote on his anticorruption agenda, which has 31 points. "Ethics reform is the linchpin for change," he told supporters Saturday night.

But while he prepares to take office with high hopes and good wishes, there are some sobering obstacles that could impede his agenda. Louisiana ranks third in the nation in the number of elected officials per capita convicted of crimes. That means that some power brokers will have real incentives to preserve the status quo. In 2004, the agent in charge of the FBI's New Orleans office described Louisiana's public corruption as "epidemic, endemic and entrenched. No branch of government is exempt."

Earlier CFG: Conservative wins Louisiana Gubernatorial

Comment: I think he looks like Bobby Kennedy! But he sounds like Reagan!

Updated: Denny Burk: An Historic Election in Louisiana

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