In the southern U.S. state of Louisiana, voters have elected their first-ever woman governor, who narrowly defeated a man who would have become the first Indian-American governor. The election represents change for Louisiana and a boost for Democrats nationwide.

Louisiana's next governor will be Democrat Kathleen Blanco, a 60-year-old former teacher who has served as Lieutenant Governor for the past eight years. For weeks she had been running slightly behind her Republican opponent, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, a 32-year-old son of immigrants from India, whose candidacy drew international attention. But in the last week, vigorous campaigning by Mrs. Blanco helped her pull ahead and reach victory.

In a concession speech at a hotel in New Orleans, Mr. Jindal remained in high spirits.

"I stand here tonight disappointed, but not discouraged," he said. "I believe that although we did not win, we did succeed. We made the case that the American dream is more alive in Louisiana than anywhere else."

At the age of 32, this loss may not be that much of a setback for Mr. Jindal. Republican leaders on both the state and national level view him as a bright young man with a promising future. Even though he lost, he demonstrated his ability to draw votes from both blacks and whites in a state where racial politics have often been divisive.

As for the Democrats, the Blanco victory is seen as a welcome change from a recent string of defeats nationwide, especially in the South. Mrs. Blanco will be the only Democratic governor in a region that was once solidly Democrat, but in the past few decades has turned more Republican.

Democratic leaders were looking on the Blanco-Jindal race as a badly needed turn in fortune after losing races over the past year in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky and Mississippi. In addition, last month's recall election in California resulted in Democratic governor Gray Davis being ousted by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who takes office there on Monday.