Kansas Lawmaker Passes Away Suddenly


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.

Terrell’s last tweet at 5:34 a.m. Wednesday also celebrated the tax plan passing.

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.