Former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan dies at 66

Former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat who served in Congress after beating Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole in a high-profile 2008 race, has died.

She was 66.

"We are heartbroken to share that Kay left us unexpectedly this morning," her family said in a statement.

Hagan served just a single term after losing to Republican Thom Tillis in 2014.

"Kay meant everything to us, and we were honored to share her with the people of North Carolina whom she cared for and fought for so passionately as an elected official. Most of all, we already miss her humor and spirit as the hub of our family, a role she loved more than anything. Nobody could light up a room and make people feel welcome like Kay," the family said. "We are deeply grateful for the support shared with our family as Kay worked to regain her strength these last few years after her illness, and we appreciate your continued prayers."

Hagan suffered health challenges in recent years after suffering a tick bite. In 2017, she was hospitalized in Atlanta with brain inflammation caused by a virus spread by ticks from animals to humans.

She had been diagnosed with a type of encephalitis, in 2016.

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