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Capitol Lens: Sen. Jean Carnahan, 1933-2024

Missouri Sen. Jean Carnahan, center, delivers on her lost Super Bowl bet by scooping Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, a St. Louis institution, to Massachusetts Sens. Ted Kennedy, left, and John Kerry after the New England Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams, 20-17, in Super Bowl XXXVI on Feb. 3, 2002.
Missouri Sen. Jean Carnahan, center, delivers on her lost Super Bowl bet by scooping Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, a St. Louis institution, to Massachusetts Sens. Ted Kennedy, left, and John Kerry after the New England Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams, 20-17, in Super Bowl XXXVI on Feb. 3, 2002. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Jean Carnahan, a Missouri Democrat who was the first woman to represent the Show Me State in the Senate and was the matriarch of a powerful political family, died Tuesday at age 90.

She died in suburban St. Louis after a brief illness at a hospice, The Associated Press reported. Carnahan was appointed to the Senate in December 2000, after her husband, Gov. Mel Carnahan, posthumously won a Senate race against the incumbent, Republican John Ashcroft. Gov. Carnahan died in a plane crash along with his son Roger and an aide on Oct. 16, 2000, but went on to beat Ashcroft in the November general election. She served from Jan. 3, 2001, to Nov. 25, 2002, losing a special election to Republican Jim Talent for the remainder of the term.

Her daughter, Robin, is currently the administrator of the General Services Administration and a former Missouri secretary of state, from 2005 to 2013. Her son Russ Carnahan served in the House from 2005 to 2013. Her father-in-law, the late Albert Sidney Johnson Carnahan, served seven terms in the House as a Missouri Democrat.

“When I met her, moments after she’d been sworn in to Mel’s seat in the Senate, I told her what other senators had told me when I’d first arrived, having just lost my own wife and daughter – ‘Lose yourself in the work.’ But Jean found herself in the work, and over the years, I saw her turn her pain into tremendous purpose,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.

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