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Kay Hagan (1953–2019), former North Carolina senator

by Kirk Fox

Kay Hagan was the first Democratic woman elected to the U.S. Senate from North Carolina. In 2008 she was a state senator when she beat Republican Elizabeth Dole. She lost her seat in 2014 to Republican Thom Tillis in a close contest that was one of the most expensive Senate races ever. In the Senate, Hagan was a strong advocate for women and a prominent backer of the Affordable Care Act. After discovering that the U.S. Senate swimming pool was for men only, she worked with Senator Chuck Schumer to end that practice.

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Died: Monday, October 28, 2019 (Who else died on October 28?)


Details of death: Died at the age of 66 from encephalitis.

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What they said about her: “As President, I deeply appreciated her reasoned, pragmatic voice, whether we were working together to pass the Affordable Care Act, reform Wall Street, support working families, or just make Americans’ lives a little better … We’re all better off because of her.” —Former President Barack Obama

“She will be remembered for her tireless work on behalf of … the people she loved. In our time as Senate colleagues, we worked across the aisle together frequently on issues that we both knew would determine what type of country our children would inherit, from conservation to our common defense. She tackled everything she did with a passion and a sense of humor that will be missed.” —Republican senator Richard Burr

“When my brother, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), had a stroke, Kay frequently checked in and was one of his biggest cheerleaders when he returned to the Senate. True bipartisanship and humanity. Blessings on her family and friends, who are many. Thank you, Senator Hagan.” —Robin Kirk

Full obituary: Charlotte Observer

Related lives: 

  • John Conyers (1929–2019), longest-serving African American member of Congress
  • Ellen Tauscher (1951–2019), former Democratic Congresswoman from California
  • Richard Lugar (1932–2019), longtime Republican Senator from Indiana

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