Colorado state house minority leader Hugh McKean dies at 55 from heart attack

Colorado state house minority leader Hugh McKean died Sunday from an apparent heart attack, shocking everyone in the state because he was only 55 years old. 

McKean called a friend and said he was experiencing chest pain and feeling unwell on Saturday night. By the time the friend arrived at his home, McKean was gone, according to Colorado Politics website.

He was running unopposed for a fourth term in office, and colleagues on both sides of the aisle praised his ability to work together for the good of Colorado.

“Hugh was fiercely passionate about two things in his extraordinary life; serving the great state of Colorado and spending time with his family, whom he adored — Aiden McKean, 21, Hanna McKean, 23, and his dearest partner and friend Amy Parks,” a statement by the state GOP office said.

“Shocked and heartbroken”

“Hugh spoke about Coloradans not in the abstract but as real living people with jobs, loves, and real-life successes and problems,” the statement continued. “Families facing hardships were not faceless pie graphs on a page to Hugh. He saw the faces of his own children, of his parents, long-time neighbors, and of Coloradans that he would always call friends.”

Speaker of the House Alec Garnett (D) said in a statement, “Emily and I are shocked and heartbroken by the passing of Minority Leader Hugh McKean. We will miss his kindness, the joy that he brought to the capitol every day, and the care that he showed every person he ever met. Hugh was the very definition of a statesman — a genuinely nice guy who always wanted the best for our state and his constituents.”

Majority Leader Daneya Esgar (D) said, “Heather and I join our entire caucus and every Coloradan in mourning the sudden passing of my friend and colleague Leader McKean. Hugh worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents and cared deeply about our state and our future. In our roles as Majority and Minority Leader, we worked closely together every day, with a shared commitment to doing the people’s work. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, his loved ones and the House Republican Caucus.”

Senate GOP Minority Leader John Cooke (R) said, “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Rep. Hugh McKean. Hugh was a leader, a friend, and a good man. He never made politics personal, but instead always greeted everyone with a warm smile and an open hand. With his sincere nature and honest approach, he taught everyone what it means to be a statesman. His passion for his family, his community, and the state of Colorado were exemplary.  We are praying for his family and offer them our deepest condolences and any support we can give. We will miss Hugh McKean greatly.”

Republican leadership scrambling

Republicans will now have to elect a new leader when they meet after the midterm elections, and it will not be an easy task. Rep. Tim Geitner, the assistant minority leader, resigned in October, and Rep. Rod Pelton, the minority whip, will also depart at the end of this year’s term.

McKean was the only veteran leader left in the House, and now he is gone.

The Denver Post reported that many of the newly elected Republicans that would be entering the House next term were “handpicked” by McKean, so it is not immediately clear how the party will function going forward.

An autopsy is being performed to confirm the cause of death, and funeral details will be announced when they are available.