Former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babino Blanco, who became the first woman elected governor only to see her political career derailed by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, has died.
After years of battling cancer, Blanco died Sunday at hospice care in Lafayette. She was 76.
"Our hearts are broken, but we are glad to know that she enjoys her heavenly reunion with Christ. Please pray for the peace of God that will carry us through the days and months of sorrow as we grieve her absence from our lives, "says Blanco's family in a statement released by Gov. John Bell Edwards' cabinet.
had rare eye cancer, which she successfully battled in 201
Blanco holds Louisiana's highest-profile job from 2004 to 2008. Until her campaign as a manager, she spends a lot of time part of her political career, moving steadily and quietly through public policy, rarely creates ripples or contradictions. The devastating hurricane since August 2005 has killed more than 1,400 people in Louisiana, displacing hundreds of thousands and flooding 80 percent of New Orleans.
Historians will continue to argue whether a governor could be prepared for such a catastrophe, but Blanco had to bear much of the blame after images of thousands strung on rooftops and overpasses were broadcast around the world and the government slowly responds. Blanco was criticized as unprepared, cluttered and indecisive.
"Although she knew that her name would forever be associated with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, her dying desire was to be remembered for her faith in God, the dedication of her family, and the love of Louisiana," Blanco's Family said.  As the devout Catholic asked in a letter declaring her final state of prayer in her final months, she also thanked Louisiana residents for "abiding love" during her years of service and described the challenges of responding to Katrina and the follow-up Hurricane Rita m later, she called it "an honor and a blessing" to lead Louisiana at the time.
"Katrina certainly left her imprint, and Rita left her imprint on Louisiana, but that made us tougher people. That made us stronger, "said the former governor
At the time after the Blanco storms, Louisiana's misfortunes were exacerbated by the Republican-led White House's desperation to blame someone else for the disaster response. "I just thought I could shout more than the noise around me, but ultimately I couldn't. It was too much pain," she once said.
Edwards, a Democrat in his first term as governor, called Blanco a mentor and coach for women. He ordered flags in state buildings around Louisiana, thrown in half staff, at Blanco's funeral, scheduled for Saturday. A public service for the former governor will be held in the Louisiana capital on Thursday.
"It led Louisiana during one of our darkest hours when hurricanes and the failure of the federal relief system devastated much of our state," Edwards said in a statement Sunday. "I hope the story remembers Governor Blanco as a tireless advocate for Louisiana, who is fiercely fighting for our state's recovery."
Former business education teacher in the small village of Kajun, Blanco, started in politics as a consultant with her husband Raymond on local redistributive issues before continuing to serve 24 years in elective office. Her first, in 1984, was a State House location. Then came positions in the State Commission for Regulation of Utilities and as lieutenant governor.
Political insiders often dismissed Blanco as gentle – honest and hardworking, but lacking in substance as a serious contender for governors. She dropped out of the race for governor in 1991, then stunned many political forecasts in the 2003 election, defeating Republican Bobby Jindal. She successfully attacked Jindal's records as a former public health official and made a memorable final debate when, when asked for a defining moment in her life, tearfully narrated the death of her 19-year-old son, Ben, in an industrial disaster in 1997.  he later succeeded Blanco as governor after Katrina stopped plans to seek a second term.
"Kathleen has loved Louisiana and has served the state for decades. She faced every struggle, including her last one, with good cheer and strong will. She will be missed, "Jindal says on Twitter.
More than a decade after the storms, views of Blanco were generally more sympathetic. She received praise for running a government without corruption and for her education. K-12 public school teachers and hundreds of millions of dollars in colleges The non-partisan Better Louisiana Council recently praised Blanco's successful pursuit of failing public schools in New Orleans after Katrina, saying it was improving education for hee yadi students.
"It is hard to overestimate how politically risky, ie," the organization wrote.
But Blanco's tenure was also marked by increased partisanship at the Louisiana Capitol, party disputes that only intensified after she left office.
Although out of the spotlight, Blanco never completely abandoned Louisiana politics. She and her husband helped Edwards in his campaigns and became close to him. Edwards called the former governor "a strong woman with incredible faith, a deep and lasting love for Louisiana and all her people."
Knowing that her end was near, Blanco described feeling "blessed by God" and spoke of her recent months as "a wonderful time for me, though it's a time of sort of counting." She talks about being surrounded by family and friends and old political enemies who have a "chance to make up for it."
"My life is so fascinated by so many events that were unexpected and triggered by many unexpected events," she said in July, as the Louisiana Highway was named in her honor. "But God puts you where He wants you to be."
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