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Jean Carnahan. Photo: Carnahan Policy Institute

Former Missouri Senator Jean Carnahan dies at 90

Jean Carnahan, the first woman to represent Missouri in the Senate after her husband Mel’s death in 2000, has died.

On Tuesday, her family announced that Carnahan passed away at a St. Louis hospital after a brief illness. She was 90.

“Mom passed peacefully after a long and rich life. She was a fearless trailblazer. She was brilliant, creative, compassionate, and dedicated to her family and her fellow Missourians,” her family stated.

In 1992, her husband Mel Carnahan became governor of Missouri. He and their oldest son Randy, and his campaign adviser died in an airplane crash three weeks before the 2000 general election in October 2000. He was running for the U.S. Senate.

In a controversial ballot decision, Mel Carnahan remained on the ballot and was posthumously elected to the Senate even after polls prior to his death showed he would lose to Republican John Ashcroft. Jean continued her late husband’s election campaign and voters chose her husband. She was then appointed by acting Democrat Gov. Roger Wilson to the position and became Missouri’s first female senator.

Her term was short, running from Jan. 3, 2001, until Nov. 25, 2002. After her appointment, Ms. Carnahan spoke in the Senate and alluded to what was viewed at the time as a sympathy vote that elected her husband and propelled her into the position. “You are here because of your win,” she told Senators who had won their elections. “I am here because of my loss.”

Her biography on the Missouri State University website lists her on the commerce, governmental affairs, aging, Armed Services Committee, and small business committees.

Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade saluted Jeane Carnahan on Twitter, saying her legacy “will not be forgotten.”

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Ms. Carnahan “will be remembered for her deep, abundant love for the people of this great state.”

–Dwight Widaman and wire services





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