Gov. Bobby Jindal easily won his bid for a second term Saturday despite challenges from nine opponents.
Jindal, a 40-year-old Republican, captured 67 percent of the votes cast with 3,824 of 4,258 precincts reporting, according to unofficial returns from the Secretary of State’s Office.
The governor celebrated his re-election win with a victory party at the Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge. He will be sworn for a second four-year term in January.
For Jindal, the evening ended early. He declared victory be-fore 9 p.m after several media outlets proclaimed him the winner.
“I will never coast,” Jindal pledged to supporters. “I will use every day, every hour.”
Fresh off his team’s win over Auburn, LSU football coach Les Miles joined the governor on stage.
Jindal vowed to grow the economy over the next four years. He said he would not list what he considered to be the accomplishments of his first term.
“Anything that’s happened that is good, it wasn’t something I did. It was something we did as a state,” Jindal said.
As the election results filtered in, a live band entertained sup-porters in a ballroom of the new hotel. A buffet offered such Louisiana standbys as catfish and red beans and rice.
By 8:30 p.m., with only 79 of 4,258 precincts reporting, Jin-dal’s family and staff began as-sembling on stage. Supporters gathered in front of the stage and clapped along to the music as they waited for Jindal to de-scend from the suite, where he watched the returns.
Four Democrats, a Libertar-ian and four candidates without a party affiliation signed up to run against Jindal. They struggled to raise money and to gen-erate interest in their campaigns.
Jindal began raising money for his re-election early in his first term. He traveled the country to hold fundraisers and amassed a multimillion-dollar war chest. His campaign’s wealth allowed him to run tele-vision commercials statewide touting his work on creating jobs and his response to the oil leak.
Most recently, Jindal’s backing of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s bid for the Republican presi-dential nomination gave him free airtime before national au-diences. Back-to-back hurricanes and the BP disaster also gave the state’s voters ample opportunity to draw conclu-sions about the governor’s job performance.
The governor’s opponents, for the most part, relied upon amateur videos, media interviews and the Internet to spread their messages.
Only one of Jindal’s opponents, Haynesville school-teacher Tara Hollis, aired TV commercials. Hemmed in by money constraints, she could not afford to air them in all markets.
The state of the Louisiana Democratic Party also helped propel Jindal into an unbeatable position. The party declined to back any of the governor’s opponents after watching Republicans claim majorities in the Louisiana House and state Senate.
Jindal skipped the only debate in the race, allowing his opponents to introduce themselves to a largely empty auditorium. They discussed education, natural resources and the state budget. Debate organizers set aside an empty chair for him on the stage.
Hollis, a Democrat, leapt onto the campaign trail early in the year after growing disgusted with stagnant funding for public schools.
Hollis tried to paint herself as another Kathleen Blanco. Like Hollis, Blanco was a schoolteacher with aspirations beyond the classroom. Unlike Hollis, Blanco was elected to several offices and never lost a political race before beating Jindal in 2003 to become the state’s first female governor.
Political insiders agreed Hollis had a compelling story to tell but bore little hope of forc-ing Jindal into a runoff.
Hollis’ husband lost his teach-ing job. But regained it after she announced her candidacy. Jindal donated money to Hollis’ classroom and offered to meet with her.
She drew 159,403 votes late Saturday, or 17 percent of the total vote.
Hollis watched returns at a union hall off Airline Highway in Baton Rouge. Rows of tables were set up for supporters. Un-ion members cooked jambalaya on the hall’s patio.
“I hope we’ll be able to pull in some votes,” Hollis said a few hours before the polls closed.
Other candidates in the race were Democrats “Niki Bird” Papazoglakis, Ivo “Trey” Rob-erts and Cary Deaton; Libertar-ian Scott Lewis; and no party candidates David Blanchard, Lenny Bollingham, Ron Ceasar and Bob Lang.
Most expressed dissatisfac-tion with Jindal’s first term, which coincided with deep money problems for the state.
Blanchard ran after being fired from his job by the Jindal administration. Ceasar tried to recall the governor.
Jindal outlined little of what he plans to do in the next four years. He has batted back sug-gestions that he will not finish a second term amid speculation that he will run for the U.S. Senate or accept a job on Capi-tol Hill in Washington, D.C.
The challenges before Jindal include: an unemployment rate that has risen. Poverty persists. Forty-four percent of public schools got a “D” or an “F” in Louisiana’s first ever round of letter grades for schools.
Jindal focused time and money on races for the Legisla-ture and the Board of Elemen-tary and Secondary Education. He characterized his involve-ment as a bid to elect more con-servative candidates. He made campaign contributions and endorsements.
For his own race, Jindal did not climb onto a bus and tour the state like he did four years ago when he ran against two millionaires who largely self fi-nanced their campaigns.
He did not attack any of his opponents in television com-mercials. Instead, confident in his re-election, Jindal spent the weeks leading up to Saturday interviewing legislative candi-dates about which committee assignments they want in the next four years. .