Former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco was blasted for the state's inadequate preparation for Hurricane Katrina.
In the 14 years since Katrina's flooding devastated New Orleans, Blanco's performance has received higher marks. Blanco, who died from cancer over the weekend at the age of 76, had to fight George W. Bush's dysfunctional administration over aid delays, according to the New York Times obituary Monday. She also had to deal with the incompetent and corrupt administration of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who ended up in prison.
A month after Katrina struck, Blanco led the state's response to Hurricane Rita, which struck the southwestern part of the state. She rose to political prominence in the Cajun parishes around Lafayette that received the brunt of Rita's fury. Her response to the hurricane drew praise.
But Blanco decided to step down after one term, leading to the election of Republican Bobby Jindal, whom she'd defeated to become the first female governor of the state. Following the path blazed by Huey Long, she raised her state profile as a member of the powerful state Public Service Commission. She was also the first woman elected to the PSC.
Jindal's budget cutting following the 2008 recession was more disastrous for the state than Katrina. His two terms marked the Republican Party's total control of the state, bringing deep tax cuts and spending reductions for social programs and higher education.
But John Bel Edwards, like Blanco a conservative, anti-abortion Democrat, took over for Jindal, and has slowly restored the state's financial health. Edwards, running for re-election against a slate of Republicans, announced Blanco's death.
Blanco, unlike Louisiana's many flamboyant and corrupt male governors, ran a solid, professional administration that could have made significant gains for the state. Unfortunately, her success was hampered by Katrina.