A Mississippi Republican who won his congressional seat in the 2010 Tea Party wave lost his battle with cancer today.
Rep. Alan Nunnelee was diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer, suffered a stroke during that surgery, and took a turn for the worse recently when a new untreatable tumor developed. He was only 56 years old.
Nunnulee was in Mississippi for treatment after his diagnosis, then returned to Washington for the lame-duck session. He then suffered a hematoma in his left leg over the holidays, his office said. The congressman stayed in his home state for therapy, where he was sworn into the 114th Congress on Jan. 12.
He leaves behind a wife and three children.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called Nunnelee “the rare calming presence in the cauldron of politics.”
“He never let cancer get the best of him. We know this because, at the end of his life, all Alan asked of us was whether he made a difference. Indeed he did, very much so,” Boehner said in a statement. “But there is more to it than that. Because when you think about all the good Alan did and all the lives he touched, it is plain that he will continue to make a difference.”
“So we mourn now, for we will miss Alan, but we also celebrate the gift of his life and service, and all he meant to us as a friend and colleague. Let us pray that God holds Alan’s family close and gives them comfort in these difficult hours.”
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a breast cancer survivor, tweeted, “Keeping Rep. Nunnelee’s family in my thoughts during this terrible time. No one should lose a husband or father so young.”
Nunnelee’s family said in a statement that the congressman “has gone home to be with Jesus.”
“He was well loved and will be greatly missed.”
“We are all saddened by the passing of Congressman Alan Nunnelee – who, throughout his time as a public servant, strived to represent his constituents with integrity and energy,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. Today, the thoughts and prayers of Congressman Nunnelee’s colleagues on both sides of the aisle are with his family and friends.”
Nunnelee was a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
“A man of conviction and faith, Alan was someone who served his district and the American people well because he believed deeply in the sacred principles of our nation’s founding,” RSC Chairman Bill Flores (R-Texas) said. “He came to Washington to make a difference, and he succeeded.”
Under Mississippi law, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) must call a special election to fill the congressional seat within 60 days.
Boehner ordered that flags at the Capitol be flown at half-staff in Nunnelee’s memory.