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Trailblazing Former Rep. Dunn Dies at 66

Former Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.), the first woman ever to run for House Majority Leader, died Wednesday. She was 66.

Dunn was pronounced dead after suffering a pulmonary embolism at her apartment in Alexandria, Va. At the time of her death, Dunn was working at the Washington, D.C., office of the lobbying firm DLA Piper.

Dunn was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1992, representing Washington’s largely suburban 8th district for six terms until her retirement in 2005. In 2000, she served on George W. Bush’s presidential exploratory committee. Before running for Congress, Dunn was the first woman to chair the Washington State Republican Party. [IMGCAP(1)]

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), in a press statement, described Dunn as “a hard-working, focused colleague” and “a dynamic spokeswoman for the Republican Party.” Boehner emphasized Dunn’s legacy of fiscal conservatism, calling her a “fearless advocate for American taxpayers.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan issued a statement calling Dunn “a true trailblazer” and “a tremendous role model not just to Republican women, but to all Republicans and all Americans.”

The release further lauded her role in “protecting women in business” and in instituting a nationwide Amber Alert system.

As a freshman, Dunn was selected as a member of House leadership. She served as secretary and vice chairwoman of the House Republican Conference. In 1998, she challenged then-Rep. Dick Armey (Texas) for the post of House Majority Leader, finishing third behind Armey and then-Rep. Steve Largent (Okla.). Over the course of her time in the chamber, Dunn served on powerful committees such as the Joint Economic Committee and Ways and Means. She also served as vice chairwoman of the Select Homeland Security Committee.

Dunn was twice selected as a delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, in 1984 and 1990.

When Dunn announced her retirement prior to the 2004 Congressional elections, President Bush released a statement hailing her as a “good friend” and a “superb legislator” who worked to promote small and female-owned businesses and protect the environment.

“She has championed sound policies that encourage economic growth and create jobs,” Bush said in the statement.

Reagan Dunn, one of Dunn’s sons and a member of the King County Council in Washington, issued a statement on behalf of the Dunn family emphasizing the former Congresswoman’s role as a trailblazer for Republican women, summing up her political career as “a series of firsts.”

Dunn attended the University of Washington and Stanford University, earning her bachelor’s degree from the latter school in 1963. Dunn and her husband, Keith Thomson, had three sons and two grandchildren.

Funeral information was not available as of press time.

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