Katrina Pols Weather Legacy of Storm's Trials


Katrina Proved Some Gulf Pols

Nagin has said the nonstop pressure and seemingly endless challenge in rebuilding his city drained him. "In having to handle everything, he seemed to have lost the will to govern," said Brox.

Gov. Blanco said some of those same pressures cited by Nagin also took a toll on her desire and ability to lead.

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"It was quite an experience just fighting for a fair share of the money we needed and asking for it to be distributed proportionally," she said. "We saw there was a political response instead of a humanitarian or commonsense approach." Blanco retired from politics in 2008 and has been writing her memoir.

"It was so difficult for Gov. Blanco," said Louisiana Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu. "She never got the credit she deserved at the time and I think in large measure her seat was lost because of it."

Landrieu, the state's senior senator, has been credited as one of the more effective leaders emerging from the Hurricane Katrina experience. She earned a reputation as an advocate for victims in Washington, securing millions in federal dollars for Louisiana to help those displaced by the storm and rebuild along the coast.

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"I was tested in almost every way a leader can be," she recalled of the years since the storm. "Every leader I know, including myself, made many mistakes throughout the days and weeks, but I'd like to believe that mine were relatively minor and they were mistakes of the head and not the heart." Landrieu was reelected in 2008.

Indeed, many of the Washington-based representatives from the Gulf region fared best after the storm, experts say.

"They weren't actually here. They didn't have any local authority. Their role was to be an advocate for the area and scream 'Help! Help! Help!' -- but they didn't have the responsibility to clean up the streets," said Brox.

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Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter also fared well politically in the wake of the storm. He and Democrat Rep. Charlie Melancon, both of whom were in office during Katrina, won their respective state primaries Saturday and will face off in November.

Still, at least one figure on the ground in his home state has been credited as having benefitted from Katrina as much as one can benefit professionally and politically from a disaster: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

"Barbour's leadership initially won him a groundswell of support and he was reelected partly as a result of the perception that he was effective at delivering aid to the state after the storm," said Forgette. "He had an unparalleled rolodex and was able to get people on the phone quickly and cut through the red tape.

Barbour is considered a rising star in the Republican Party and has been exploring a potential presidential bid in 2012.

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