Former U.S. and state senator Kay Hagan passed away Monday morning at the age of sixty-six. 

The Democrat and native of Shelby, who served ten years in the General Assembly and one term in Washington before being narrowly defeated by Thom Tillis in 2014, was diagnosed with the Powassan virus, an incurable tick-borne illness that can cause encephalitis, in 2016. Her death was unexpected. 

“We are heartbroken to share that Kay left us unexpectedly this morning,” her family said in a statement. “Kay meant everything to us, and we were honored to share her with the people of North Carolina, whom she cared for and fought for so passionately as an elected official.” 

“Kristin and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend Senator Kay Hagan,” Governor Cooper said in a statement. “Kay was a fierce advocate for North Carolina, and she represented our state with courage and grace her entire career. She made it a mission to inspire young people—especially young girls—to enter public service, and she served as a role model to so many.”

“Kay brought great energy and dedication to her work, regarding the 2008 elections that brought her to the Senate as ‘a testament to how hungry people are for change,’” U.S. Representative David Price said in a statement. “She embodied the hope of the New South, to overcome past divisions and chart a positive, inclusive forward course.”

Her political adversaries joined in as well: “Senator Hagan represented the very best of North Carolina both as a committed public servant and an accomplished executive in the private sector,” said House Speaker Tim Moore. “Her tragic death is a shock to the citizens she served faithfully in the General Assembly and the U.S. Congress. I join millions of her fellow North Carolinians remembering her immense contribution to our state and sending her family our deepest condolences during this tragic time.”

Prior to entering the political arena, Hagan was vice president of North Carolina National Bank, now part of Bank of America. 

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