- Associated Press - Monday, January 23, 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Former North Carolina state Rep. Ruth Samuelson, who rose through the General Assembly leadership ranks while building professional and personal relationships with colleagues from both parties, died Monday, seven months after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Samuelson, 57, died Monday morning of cancer-related causes at her Charlotte home, funeral home operator Ken Poe said.

Samuelson, who grew up in Charlotte and went to UNC-Chapel Hill, served as a Mecklenburg County commissioner before being elected in 2006 to the North Carolina House, where she rose to Republican Conference Leader.

Samuelson was a strong fundraiser and candidate recruiter for House Republicans, and a top lieutenant to then-Speaker Thom Tillis.

Considered a candidate to succeed Tillis and become the House’s first female speaker, Samuelson instead decided not to seek re-election in 2014. She said at the time continuing her political career would take too much time from her passions of philanthropy, faith and family. At the time of her cancer diagnosis, she was working for a national philanthropic advisory firm.

“Her life was in public as it was in private: grounded in faith and focused on serving others,” Tillis, now a U.S. senator, said in a news release. As speaker, “there was no one I counted on more than Ruth Samuelson,” he added.

Ruth’s infectious personality and powerful impact on public service in North Carolina will always remain close to our hearts,” added current Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland.

Samuelson took lead roles passing contentiously partisan legislation, such as GOP bills regulating abortion and requiring certain IDs to vote, but she had many friends across the aisle in Raleigh. Environmental groups relied on Samuelson as a conservation ally, and her support of renewable energy legislation strained her relations at times with hard-line conservatives.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, through his Twitter account, said Samuelson “was a dedicated leader and champion for our state. Her deep faith and graciousness will be missed.”

Survivors include her husband, parents, four children and four grandchildren. Her funeral service will be Friday afternoon at First Baptist Church in Charlotte.

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