Kathleen Blanco, Louisiana's first woman governor, dies, led state
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[August 19, 2019]
By Sharon Bernstein
(Reuters) - Trailblazing former Louisiana
Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, whose tenure was dominated by the
trauma of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, has died from
complications of cancer, the state's current governor said on Sunday.
She was 76.
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 melanoma.
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 in 2004.
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
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Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco speaks during an inauguration
ceremony for Mayor Ray Nagin in New Orleans June 1, 2006.
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
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