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Kathleen Blanco
Kathleen Blanco 2015.jpg
54th Governor of Louisiana
In office
January 12, 2004 – January 14, 2008
Lieutenant Mitch Landrieu
Preceded by Mike Foster
Succeeded by Bobby Jindal
50th Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
In office
January 8, 1996 – January 12, 2004
Governor Mike Foster
Preceded by Melinda Schwegmann
Succeeded by Mitch Landrieu
Member of the
Louisiana Public Service Commission
from the 2nd district
In office
January 1, 1989 – January 8, 1996
Succeeded by Jimmy Field
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives
from the 45th district
In office
March 12, 1984 – January 1, 1989
Preceded by Luke LeBlanc
Succeeded by Jerry LeBlanc
Personal details
Kathleen Marie Babineaux

(1942-12-15)December 15, 1942
New Iberia, Louisiana, U.S.
Died August 18, 2019(2019-08-18) (aged 76)
Lafayette, Louisiana, U.S.
Resting place Saint Charles Borromeo Cemetery
Grand Coteau, Louisiana
Political party Democratic
Raymond Blanco
(m. 1964)
Children 6
Education University of Louisiana, Lafayette (BS)

Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (December 15, 1942 – August 18, 2019) was an American politician who served as the 54th Governor of Louisiana from January 2004 to January 2008. A member of the Democratic Party, she was the first and, to date, only woman elected as the state's governor.

When first elected, Blanco outlined her top priorities as providing affordable healthcare, improving the education system in the state, and helping to create a strong and vibrant economy through aggressive economic development initiatives. Her work as governor changed dramatically when, in 2005, coastal Louisiana was severely damaged by two hurricanes that struck less than a month apart. In August, Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans region, an urban area of 1.4 million people. Then, in September, Hurricane Rita struck the southwestern coast, displacing another 300,000 people. More than 200,000 housing units were destroyed, 81,000 businesses closed, entire electrical and telecommunication systems were torn apart, and one million people were made homeless as a result of severe flooding caused by levee failures and storm surges.

Many believed the immediate response from the city, state, and federal governments was inadequate, and Blanco later fully acknowledged there were failures on the part of her administration before and after the storm; however, much criticism, both locally and nationally, was directed at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and at President Bush, for what was seen as a slow initial response to the disaster and an inability to effectively manage, care for and deliver promised resources to those trying to evacuate from New Orleans.

Blanco announced in March 2007 that she would not seek re-election later that year, saying that she would instead "focus [her] time and energy for the [remainder of her term] on the people's work, not on [the] politics" of running for another term. In June 2011 she was diagnosed with cancer, and she died eight years later on August 18, 2019.

Early life and career

She was born in New Iberia, Louisiana. Blanco attended Mount Carmel Academy, an all-girls school run by the Roman Catholic Sisters of Mount Carmel. In 1964, Blanco received a Bachelor of Science in Business Education from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, then named the University of Southwestern Louisiana.

On August 8, 1964, she married Raymond Blanco, a football coach and educator; the couple had four daughters: Karmen, Monique, Nicole, and Pilar and two sons: Ray Jr., and Ben.

Following college, she taught business at Breaux Bridge High School. She then worked for roughly fifteen years as a stay-at-home mom. She later worked as a District Manager for the U.S. Department of Commerce during the 1980 Decennial Census initiative and with her husband, owned Coteau Consultants, a political and marketing research firm.

Prior to her election as governor, Blanco served twenty years in public office. In 1983, elected as the first woman legislator from the city of Lafayette, she served five years in the Louisiana House of Representatives. In her first term, she and her friend Evelyn Blackmon of West Monroe were two of only five women in both houses of the legislature.

Blanco in 1988 defeated the Republican Kernan "Skip" Hand to become the first woman in Louisiana elected to the Louisiana Public Service Commission, a post that she held for seven years, She was also the first woman chairman of the PSC. She was then elected Lieutenant Governor, a post that she held for eight years.

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