Kay Hagan, a Democrat, was in the Senate from 2009 to 2015 after defeating Elizabeth Dole. She lost her re-election bid in November 2014 to Republican Senator Thom Tillis. Tillis said in a Tweet Monday that he was “broken” by Hagan’s death and remembered for her “dedicated and excellent public service record for our state and nation”.

“It’s a broken heart to say that Kay left unexpectedly this morning,” the Hagan family said. “Kay meant everything to us, and it was an honor to share her with the people of North Carolina who so passionately nursed and fought for her as a elected official.”

The family did not provide the cause of death, but said that she was “deeply grateful for the support Kay has given her illness over the last few years to regain her strength.”

The News & Record, a North Carolina newspaper, reports that Hagan was in Washington in 2016, when she fell ill and was hospitalized with encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. The disease led to months of hospitalization at a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, according to the newspaper, and her family later said the disease was caused by the Powassan virus being transmitted from ticks to humans.

In June, Hagan seldom appeared in public at a groundbreaking ceremony for an air traffic control tower in the state – a project she allegedly advanced during her time in Congress, according to News & Record. Her husband told the newspaper at the time that her illness limited her language skills and caused standing and walking difficulties. Although she made no public statements, “she shared private greetings with well-wishers” at the event, it said in the newspaper.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Monday in a statement that he visited Hagan on Sunday in Durham, North Carolina, and remembered her as “a brave soul who lived every day of her too-short life with incredible dignity and even character as the days became physically more difficult. “

“She was a champion of North Carolina and a fierce defender of all her citizens, championing women’s rights and the equality of marriage, not because it was politically popular, but because it was right,” Biden said. “As a United States senator, she was a key partner in our administration to pass both the Recovery Act and the Affordable Care Act.”

Hagan’s “legacy of service will continue to live in new leaders that have inspired her to follow her steps,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama expressed his condolences to Hagan’s family and recalled her as a “great public servant” who “wanted to find a common ground, was ready to rise above the partisan controversy, and always focused on making progress for the people to achieve that she served. “

“As President, I deeply valued her sensible, pragmatic voice as we work together to pass the Affordable Care Act, reform Wall Street, support working families, or just slightly improve the lives of Americans,” he said in a statement to Monday. “Their record is one that should be followed by all government officials, and their perspective is one that we will sorely miss.”

Senator Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican who served alongside Hagan, said in a statement that he and his wife were “deeply saddened by the sudden and premature loss” of his former colleague.

“In our time as Senate colleagues, we have often worked together on issues that we both knew would determine what kind of land our children would inherit, from conservation to our common defense,” Burr said, noting that Hagan will be remembered. for her tireless work in the name of the house and the people she loved. “