Former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who became the state's first female elected governor only to see her political career derailed by Hurricane Katrina, has died. Gov. John Bel Edwards' office confirmed Blanco had died Sunday in hospice care in Lafayette. She was 76, the AP reports. Blanco had a rare eye cancer that she battled successfully in 2011, but that later returned and spread to her liver. Her death came more than a year after the Democrat who served in state government offices for more than two decades announced in December 2017 that she was being treated for the incurable melanoma. Blanco described being in a "fight for my own life, one that will be difficult to win." Blanco held Louisiana's top elected job from 2004 to 2008.
Until her campaign for governor, she spent much of her political career moving steadily and quietly through state politics. Katrina, the devastating hurricane of August 2005, killed more than 1,400 people in Louisiana, displaced hundreds of thousands, and inundated 80% of New Orleans. Historians will continue to debate whether any governor could have been prepared, but Blanco shouldered much of the blame. The devout Catholic called it an "honor and blessing" to lead Louisiana at that time, but also said Louisiana's miseries were worsened by a Republican-led White House desperate to blame someone else for its disaster response failures. (Click to see more about her life, or read about the death of a "handsome and perceptive lady.")