Blanco, a Democrat, was the first woman elected
to lead the state, serving as governor from 2004 to 2008.
"Kathleen loved this state and our people and was a shining
example of what can be accomplished by hard work and
determination," Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said on
Twitter. "She led Louisiana through one of our darkest hours,
when hurricanes and the failure of the federal levee system
devastated much of our state."
The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, reported that
she died on Sunday from complications of the skin cancer
Blanco entered public office in 1984 as the first woman elected
to represent the city of Lafayette in the state legislature,
according to her official state biography.
A mother of six who ran for office after years at home with her
children, Blanco was also the first woman elected to the
Louisiana Public Service Commission. She served two terms as the
state's lieutenant governor before ascending to the governorship
But the disastrous failure of the levees surrounding New Orleans
during Hurricane Katrina and criticism of the state's response
derailed a promising political career. Deaths blamed on Katrina
range from about 1,200 to more than 1,800, most along the Gulf
Coast of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Hurricane Rita hit the Gulf Coast region soon after, delivering
further blows to a state that seemed unprepared for the twin
catastrophes. That storm was blamed for more than 100 deaths.
"Her legitimacy and popularity was gone in two weeks," political
consultant Roy Fletcher was quoted as saying in a 2006 interview
with the Advocate.
Blanco declined to seek re-election.
Former Arkansas Republican Governor Mike Huckabee, whose time in
office partly overlapped that of Blanco, praised her on Twitter,
saying: "We were from different parties, but she and her husband
(everyone just called him "Coach") were classy, lovely ppl and
we worked together on projects that helped both our states."
Blanco is survived by her husband, Raymond Blanco, five
children, 13 grandchildren and her mother, the newspaper said.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California;
Editing by Peter Cooney)
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