First openly gay lawmaker elected to a statewide office dies

FILE - In this March 15, 2000 file photo, Vermont Auditor of Accounts Ed Flanagan, left, watches the debate on same sex marriage next to Nina Beck, and her son, Seth, at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier, Vt. Flanagan, credited as the first openly gay lawmaker in the country elected to statewide office has died, he was 66. . Vermont Democratic State Rep. Mary Sullivan said she had planned to visit Flanagan on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, but arrived shortly after his death. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

MONTPELIER, Vt. - The former Vermont auditor of accounts and state senator credited as the first openly gay lawmaker in the country elected to statewide office has died.

Ed Flanagan died Friday at a nursing home in New Hampshire. He was 66.

Vermont Democratic State Rep. Mary Sullivan, who had been friends with Flanagan for decades, said Saturday she had planned to visit Flanagan on Friday but arrived shortly after his death.

Flanagan suffered a traumatic brain injury in a 2005 car crash that left him in a coma for several weeks. Sullivan said Flanagan's declining health in recent years was a result of those injuries.

"He was passionate and very progressive," said Sullivan who knew Flanagan in Washington before she moved to Vermont to manage Flanagan's unsuccessful run for Vermont attorney general in 1988. "He was guided by a moral compass."

Flanagan was first elected auditor in 1992. He was elected to three additional two-year terms, including two after he came out as gay in 1995.

In 2000, after leaving the auditor's post, Flanagan ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate seat then held by Republican James Jeffords. He was elected to the state Senate in 2004. He was re-elected in 2006, after he was injured in the car crash, and again in 2008.

Conor Casey, the executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, said Flanagan was courageous to come out as gay before it became common.

"He leaves a tremendous legacy and a lot for us to strive for in the party," Casey said.


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