North Carolina State Sen. Martin Nesbitt, a longtime fixture in the state's legislature, died Thursday, just 10 days after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He was 67.
Nesbitt, an attorney from Asheville, left his post as the Senate's Democratic leader Monday due to health issues, but Raleigh's News & Observer wrote that no one really knew the seriousness of his illness.
"North Carolina has lost a great leader," U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said in a statement, per the News & Observer. "Martin was a fierce defender of his values, a champion for mental health, and a strong advocate for North Carolina’s children and public education system."
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Nesbitt began his career in the North Carolina legislature in 1979, replacing his late mother, State Rep. Mary Nesbitt. He served 11 terms in the House and then moved over to the state Senate in 2004, according to the News & Observer.
The newspaper said that Nesbitt was a leading voice for mental health, education, and the working poor.
"We are terribly saddened to hear of Senator Nesbitt’s untimely passing," North Carolina Republican Party chair Claude Pope told WRAL-TV in a statement
. "Although we may have disagreed on some issues over the years, Senator Nesbitt was an honorable and dedicated public servant who worked to improve the lives of North Carolinians. Our thoughts and prayers are with Senator Nesbitt’s family during this difficult time."
Numerous state leaders and figures, including American Idol winner turned politician Clay Aiken, passed along condolences.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory ordered the state's flags lowered to half-staff Friday after Nesbitt's passing
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