Republican state Sen. Dave Cox died Tuesday after what his family described as a 13-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 72.
The lawmaker died peacefully at his home in the Sacramento suburb of Fair Oaks, said Nghia Demovic, his spokeswoman.
Cox represented the sprawling 1st Senate District, a heavily Republican district that encompasses parts of 12 Sierra and foothill counties from the northeastern tip of California at the Oregon border to Mammoth Lakes in Mono County.
The death leaves two vacancies in the 40-member chamber. Republican Abel Maldonado left to become lieutenant governor in April.
Cox was elected to the Senate in 2004 after six years in the Assembly, where he served as Assembly minority leader from March 2001 to January 2004. He previously served six years as a Sacramento County supervisor.
"A devoted family man, he always found time to serve his community and constituents," his family said in a statement. "Dave took great pride in public service and making government work for the people it serves."
Messages of condolence came from members of both political parties.
Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, recalled sharing laughter and a sense of collegiality with the longtime legislator, a camaraderie he said is often lacking in politics.
"I will miss his sense of humor, his friendship, and his steadfast commitment to a more transparent and accountable government," Yee said in a statement.
Cox kept working despite growing physical problems. He showed up on the Senate floor in March wearing an eye patch because of a temporary medical condition. He joked that he was imitating the late Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan, who lost an eye to a war injury.
Cox remained "unfailingly conscientious, cheerful and respected" despite his health issues, California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring recalled.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, added that Cox could be fiercely partisan but "always had a gentle heart."
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recalled that Cox was the first Republican leader to endorse Schwarzenegger's ballot measure in 2002 to provide money for after-school programs. Schwarzenegger was not yet governor.
Cox "helped shape the way we live and do business in this state," said Schwarzenegger, who ordered Capitol flags flown at half-staff.
Schwarzenegger will have to call a special election to fill the seat held by Cox.
Cox was born in Holdenville, Okla. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of San Diego and a Master of Science at Gold Gate University. He sold insurance before winning his seat in the Legislature.
He chaired the Senate Local Government Committee, unusual for a Republican in the Democrat-controlled chamber. He was vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
Cox is survived by his wife of 44 years, Maggie, three daughters and six grandchildren. A memorial services was pending.
Reflections on Dave Cox
“Sen. Cox was a committed public servant and loyal husband, father and grandfather. He was a great leader whose accomplishments helped shape the way we live and do business in this state.
“I got to know Dave in 2002, when he was the first Republican leader to support my after-school initiative, Proposition 49, which provided funds for after-school programs. He fought passionately to convince legislators that California needed Proposition 49 for the children of this state, and together we succeeded.”
— Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“He’s always been a supporter of Galt and all the small communities, He was no further away than a phone call. I do appreciate that about him.”
— Galt Mayor Randy Shelton.
“My heart is heavy with grief with our caucus family losing one of its most respected members. Sen. Cox’s unparalleled dedication to public service never wavered, and he continued to work diligently during the most trying times of his illness.”
— State Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto (represents Lodi area).
“He was a no-nonsense, down-to-earth kind of person.”
— Galt Vice Mayor Barbara Payne.