Kay Hagan, a former Democratic senator from North Carolina who served one term in the capital after defeating Elizabeth Dole, a Republican, in 2008, died on Monday at her home in Greensboro, N.C. She was 66.
She died after a three-year battle with Powassan virus, a type of encephalitis, or brain inflammation, her family said in a statement. The virus is transmitted to humans by ticks.
“We are heartbroken to share that Kay left us unexpectedly this morning,” her family said.
Ms. Hagan defeated Ms. Dole in the first general election in North Carolina in which two women competed. When she ran for re-election in 2014, Ms. Hagan was defeated by Thom Tillis, a Republican, in what was then the most expensive Senate race in the country. After her loss, she became a resident fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.
Since contracting her illness in 2016, Ms. Hagan largely stayed out of the public eye. Using a wheelchair, she made a rare appearance in June, when she attended the groundbreaking ceremony for an air traffic control tower at Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, for which she had helped procure federal dollars. She did not speak at the ceremony.
“Kay’s ability to speak is limited, but her comprehension is very good,” her husband, Charles T. Hagan, told reporters. He said her illness limited her ability to control her muscles. “She still has a great deal of difficulty in standing and walking and that sort of stuff,” he said.
In addition to her husband, Ms. Hagan is survived by her three children, Jeanette Hagan, C. Tilden Hagan IV and Carrie Hagan Stewart; her father, Joe P. Ruthven; her brothers, Joe L. Ruthven and Greg Ruthven, and five grandchildren.
A full obituary will appear soon.