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 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 acknowledged there were failures on the part of her administration before and after the storm; much criticism, however, was directed at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 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 December 2017 she was diagnosed with cancer, and she died nearly two years later, on August 18, 2019.
She is also known as Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.