By John Celock
A freshman Democratic state legislator in Kansas was found dead in her hotel room Wednesday.
State Rep. Patsy Terrell (D-Hutchinson) was found dead in her room at the Ramada in downtown Topeka, the Topeka Capitol-Journal reported. No cause of death was immediately reported. News of Terrell’s death was first made public during a House Republican Caucus meeting Wednesday evening, the Capitol-Journal reported.
Terrell had been posting on social media Tuesday night and Wednesday morning about the Legislature’s vote Tuesday to override Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) veto of a bill repealing the state’s 2012 tax cuts. Terrell had been a key advocate of changing the state’s tax policy to repeal the 2012 cuts, which have contributed to the state’s ongoing budget deficit. She also advocated for increased funding for education in the state.
“I’m going to go to Topeka and I’m going to show up for work everyday just like you do,” Terrell said in a March 2016 video introducing her candidacy. “I am going to be there to be a good strong voice for what we need right here at home, in our district, in our neighborhood, for our schools. We need to move in a new direction with fresh ideas.”
Terrell had been a key figure in the Legislature’s bipartisan women’s caucus, which was focused on developing a bipartisan tax bill in recent days. Terrell had worked to facilitate the caucus’ discussion on tax policy.
“It was my honor to make this vote on behalf of my constituents – hard working people who deserve a system that works FOR them,” Terrell tweeted at 1:08 a.m. Wednesday morning.
It was my honor to make this vote on behalf of my constituents – hard working people who deserve a system that works FOR them.
— Patsy Terrell (@patsyterrell) June 7, 2017
Terrell’s last tweet at 5:34 a.m. Wednesday also celebrated the tax plan passing.
You're waking up in a Kansas where the Brownback experiment has ended. Good morning! #ksleg
— Patsy Terrell (@patsyterrell) June 7, 2017
Terrell was elected to the state House of Representatives last year, defeating former Rep. Jan Pauls (R-Hutchinson). Terrell’s victory was seen as a key moment for progressives in Kansas, who had long worked to oust Pauls, who had been a conservative pro-life and anti-gay Democrat prior to her 2014 conversion to the GOP. Pauls had a history of defeating progressives challengers prior to Terrell defeating her.
An alumnus of the University of Kentucky, Terrell first came to Kansas in 1984 for a radio job and settled in Hutchinson, the Hutchinson News reported following her 2016 victory. She worked in writing and communications in addition to her work in the Legislature. She was the author of Cook’s Library with Patsy, a blog and website focused on cooking and recipes.
Terrell served on the Government Technology and Security Committee, the Water and Environment Committee, the Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee and the Higher Education Budget Committee.
Terrell’s shocked colleagues are paying tribute to her on social media.
My condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Rep. Terrell after her sudden passing today. She will be missed. #ksleg
— Sam Brownback (@govsambrownback) June 8, 2017
— Jim Ward (@RepJimWard) June 8, 2017
Patsy was a strong legislator who was firm in her convictions, listened to others, and is a true example of what it means to govern. #ksleg
— ❄️Stephanie Clayton❄ (@SSCJoCoKs) June 8, 2017
Kansas lost a passionate and dedicated leader today. Rep. Patsy Terrell worked hard to represent her community. She will be missed. #ksleg
— Speaker Ryckman (@RonRyckman) June 8, 2017
— Cindy For Kansas (@cindy4kansas) June 8, 2017
— Brett Parker (@BrettParker4KS) June 8, 2017
Patsy is a wonderful person with a glowing personality who will be sorely missed. A gracious and caring person, regardless politics. #ksleg
— Rep. J.R. Claeys (@jrclaeys) June 8, 2017
My heart is with Rep. Terrell's family & friends tonight as they mourn her passing. I grieve with her #ksleg friends over this tragic loss.
— Susan Wagle (@SenatorWagle) June 8, 2017
— Shelee Brim (@sheleebrim39) June 8, 2017
Just yesterday we were talking & laughing about her pin collection, vintage hats, & the cat that used to push her out of bed RIP PT #ksleg
— Rep. Kevin Jones (@kevinicolejones) June 8, 2017
Absolutely heartbroken by the sudden passing of Rep Terrell. She was such a positive, great person. The #ksleg is blessed to have known her.
— Dr. Brandon Whipple (@BWhippleKS) June 8, 2017
RIP Rep Patsy Terrell. Thank you for your service and for being a genuinely good person. #ksleg
— Roderick Houston (@Reprod89) June 8, 2017
Very sad news on the passing of Rep. Terrell. She was a persistent, hard working legislator for Ks workers.She will be missed. RIP #ksleg
— Working Kansans (@workingkansans) June 8, 2017
— League of KS Munis (@LeagueKSMunis) June 8, 2017
Rep. Terrell was a warm, honest, energetic, dedicated woman & civil servant. We join her friends, family & constituents in grief. #ksleg
— PP Great Plains KS (@PPGreatPlainsKS) June 8, 2017
— Eric Teetsel (@EricTeetsel) June 8, 2017
— Kansans For Hemp (@Kansans4Hemp) June 8, 2017