Kay Hagan, a former bank executive who rose from a budget writer in the North Carolina Legislature to a seat in the US Senate, died Monday after a three-year illness related to a tick-borne virus. She was 66. Hagan died of encephalitis, or brain inflammation, caused by Powassan virus, a rare virus spread from ticks to humans, said her former Senate spokeswoman, Sadie Weiner, per the AP. Hagan contracted the illness in late 2016, and the subsequent brain inflammation made it difficult for her to speak and walk. Before falling ill, she was an "exercise junkie," notes the Raleigh News & Observer. Hagan died at her home in Greensboro, her family says in a statement.
"We already miss her humor and spirit as the hub of our family, a role she loved more than anything," says the statement. Hagan, a Democrat, served a single term in the Senate and lost her 2014 re-election bid to Republican North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis. Hagan was born in Shelby, North Carolina, on May 26, 1953. She earned her undergraduate degree from Florida State University in 1975, then earned a law degree from Wake Forest University three years later. In 2008, she sought and won the Senate seat held by Republican Elizabeth Dole. Hagan is survived by her husband, Chip, and three children: Jeanette Hagan, Tilden Hagan, and Carrie Hagan Stewart.
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