Ed Flanagan, credited as the first openly gay person elected to a statewide office in the U.S., has died at age 66.
Flanagan, the former Vermont state auditor of accounts, died Friday at a nursing home in New Hampshire, the Burlington [Vt.] Free Press reports. He had been in poor health for years, having suffered a traumatic brain injury in an auto accident in 2005. He was in a coma for several weeks after the crash.
A Democrat, he was first elected auditor in 1992 and was reelected three times to additional two-year terms. Two of his victories occurred after he came out as gay in 1995. He had run unsuccessfully for Vermont attorney general in 1988.
Flanagan ran for U.S. Senate in 2000 but lost to moderate Republican James Jeffords, who subsequently left the party and became an independent. Flanagan was elected state senator in 2004 and reelected in 2006 and 2008, despite concerns about the effects of the 2005 accident.
“He was passionate and very progressive,” Vermont State Rep. Mary Sullivan, who managed his campaign for attorney general, told the Free Press. “He was guided by a moral compass.”
Steve Howard, a former Vermont state representative who came out the year after Flanagan did, said Flanagan was helpful in the process. “When I needed him the most, when I was a struggling closeted guy, I turned to Ed for guidance and advice, and he stood by me and said everything is going to be OK,” Howard, now executive director of the Vermont State Employees’ Association, told news site VTDigger.
A memorial service will be scheduled later, Sullivan said. Flanagan is survived by his partner, Isaac Lustgarten.