Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco returned to the public stage Saturday with fiery words directed at the state’s Republican leadership.

Blanco said Democrats who bolted to the GOP are discovering that they lose when they adopt the “policies of fear mongers” with little compassion.

Without naming Gov. Bobby Jindal, she said government priorities are being uttered but are not being backed up, especially in the area of public education funding. She said shortchanging children sends them to a life of generational poverty.

“The carnage has to stop,” Blanco told the crowd attending the Louisiana Democratic Party’s annual Thomas Jefferson-Andrew Jackson Dinner at the Hilton Capitol Center in downtown Baton Rouge.

The dinner was the Democratic former governor’s first big public appearance since announcing she is battling a rare eye cancer.

Blanco underwent radiation, but joked that she considered having her eye removed so she could send it to the State Capitol in a jar with the message that she is keeping her eye on what is happening in Baton Rouge.

“I have my eye (and) I’m keeping both of my eyes on you,” she said.

Blanco left public office in 2008 after serving one term as governor. She was the state’s first woman governor. She decided not to seek re-election following 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The dinner was a congratulatory moment for the former governor. She received a lifetime achievement award from the Louisiana Democratic Party. On hand to support her were her husband, Raymond, their children and many of her former aides. Blanco’s mother also was in the crowd.

Now living in Lafayette, Blanco said she is relishing private life.

“Retiring from the political arena has been a very nice thing for me and for my family,” she said.

That arena looks very different than it did three years ago when Blanco left office. Democrats no longer hold any statewide offices. No well-financed candidates have announced plans to oppose Republican Jindal’s re-election bid this fall. Republicans hold the majority of the seats in the state Senate and the Louisiana House.

The state also is grappling with deep financial problems, resulting in limited dollars for education and other public services.

Blanco said she left the house in perfect order with a $2 billion surplus when she departed the Governor’s Office.

E. Renae Conley, executive vice president of Entergy, introduced Blanco as a governor who brought tremendous federal dollars to Louisiana after the 2005 storms. She said that money allowed the state to rebuild.

“She was utterly unselfish,” Conley said.

Blanco admitted she struggled while working 18-hour days after the hurricanes. She said she fought with the administration of then-President George W. Bush on the handling of the disaster.

Blanco said she began to wonder if anyone cared or noticed the amount of work she was performing. She said the party’s recognition is the thanks she needs.

Blanco said she believes the pendulum will swing back for Democratic control of the state political scene.

She said public dollars are being sent to private schools when public schools are in a financial chokehold.

Recruiting jobs is important, Blanco said, but people need an education to get and keep those jobs.

“That limo called Louisiana is running out of gas,” she said.