Less than a month later, another huge storm, Hurricane Rita, hit the Texas-Louisiana border, causing billions more in damage. The rest of Ms. Blanco’s term was spent managing the recovery.
There were some successes, including legislation consolidating New Orleans’s multifarious, unwieldy and antiquated levee board system. She also pushed for the refurbishing of the damaged Superdome, assuring that the New Orleans Saints would stay in town. The team’s 2010 Super Bowl victory would be regarded as one the great redemption stories in American sports and a sign of the region’s resilience.
But she was also criticized for the federally funded government-grant disbursement program called Road Home, which was administered by the Louisiana Recovery Authority. Although it helped 130,000 hurricane victims and gave out more than $9 billion, it was faulted for delays, lax administration, racial disparities and lawsuits.
To this day, Ms. Blanco’s defenders argue that the federal government went overboard with rules meant to prevent people from gaming the system. But it was difficult for her to avoid blame: Early letters sent out to homeowners referred to the program as “Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco’s Road Home Program.”
The damage was done. In March 2007, facing dreary poll numbers, she announced that she would not seek re-election. Mr. Jindal was soon elected and served two terms.
Besides her husband, her survivors include five children and 13 grandchildren.
Ms. Blanco largely retired from the public eye, spending time in her Lafayette home and traveling and visiting with her children and grandchildren. For years, friends say, she felt that she had taken more criticism than she deserved.
But there was no hint of bitterness in her open letter to Louisianians in December 2017, in which she discussed her cancer. She asked for their prayers and thanked those who carried the storm’s most vulnerable victims to safety.
“In my heart, I always understood God was preparing me for unknown challenges,” she wrote. “And of course those challenges came.”
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