Blanco not running for re-election

March 20, 2007

Reported by Associated Press

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, whose popularity plummeted after two hurricanes devastated south Louisiana less than halfway through her first term, has announced that she won't seek re-election. She said her decision will enable her to get what she called important initiatives through an upcoming legislative session without having to worry about political considerations.

She said, "I am doing this so we can work without interference from election year politics." She had already broken the news in telephone calls to legislative leaders and in a letter to her staff.

Elected Louisiana's first woman governor in 2003, Blanco, a Democrat from Louisiana's Cajun country, had already drawn a half dozen challengers for this fall's election, including popular Republican U-S Representative Bobby Jindal, whom she defeated the last time out with 52 percent of the vote. Former U-S Senator John Breaux, a popular Democrat, has said he will decide soon whether to enter the race.

Blanco was seen as so politically weakened by hurricanes Katrina and Rita that Democratic powerbrokers questioned behind the scenes whether she was re-electable or whether she should step aside to give another Democratic candidate a better chance at the post. Blanco had been widely criticized not only for her immediate response to the storms, but also for a bureaucracy-bogged recovery effort.

The governor's announcement makes her a lame duck six weeks before lawmakers return to the state Capitol for their regular legislative session and only days after she proposed a record 29.2 billion dollar budget for next year that would pour money into pay raises and education initiatives.

Elliott Stonecipher, a Shreveport pollster and demographer, said Blanco's exit from the governor's race was not shocking after the bad publicity she's received since the hurricanes. And he said it was a good move for the Democratic Party.

We'll have reaction to Governor Blanco's annoucement tonight on 7 News Nightcast.