NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, whose approval ratings have fallen during the state’s difficult recovery from Hurricane Katrina, said on Tuesday she will not seek reelection this fall.
In a televised address from the governor’s mansion in Baton Rouge, Blanco, a first-term Democrat, said she did not want the distractions of an election campaign to interfere with her agenda for the upcoming legislative session.
“I am choosing to do what I believe is best for my state. I will focus my time and my energy for the next nine months on the people’s work, not on politics,” Blanco said.
Blanco, who as recently as last week insisted she planned to run for a second term, has been the target of harsh criticism for her performance during Hurricane Katrina’s chaotic aftermath, when tens of thousands of New Orleans residents were stranded for days in the heavily flooded city.
Her political fortunes have changed little in the more than 18 months since the storm struck on August 29, 2005.
A troubled state-run program to reimburse homeowners whose houses were damaged or destroyed has been slow to distribute money, so much of New Orleans is still in ruins and thousands of voters from the city, a Democratic stronghold, have not returned.
The city has also seen a surge in its murder count and mounting public anger at the perceived inability of the authorities to stem violent crime.
Polls have shown Blanco running far behind one likely Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, who she narrowly defeated in a runoff election in 2003.
A former high school teacher and state representative from the Cajun region of southwest Louisiana, Blanco served two terms as lieutenant governor before she was elected Louisiana’s first female governor.
The open primary election for governor will be held October 20. If necessary, a runoff will take place November 17.