California Sen. Sharon Runner, who returned to the Legislature last year following a double lung transplant, died Thursday. The Lancaster Republican was 62.
Runner’s family said in a statement that she died peacefully at home, surrounded by family and friends, following respiratory complications.
“Through her life, Sharon held tight to her favorite Bible verse, Proverbs 3:5-6, trusting in the Lord through all obstacles,” the Runner family said. “We take comfort in the fact that the Lord truly directed her path, and she is now home in the arms of her savior.”
Runner, who was married to Board of Equalization member George Runner, announced in March that she would not seek re-election when her term ended this year, citing “medical challenges during the cold and flu season.”
She spent six years in the Assembly before winning a 2011 special election to advance to the Senate, filling the seat of her husband, who left to serve on the state Board of Equalization. The Runners had been the first spouses to serve simultaneously in the Legislature.
Sharon Runner, an evangelical Christian, helped found Desert Christian School in Lancaster. Though she didn’t proselytize, Runner often recited the biblical passage from Proverbs that gave her comfort: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path.”
Among her most significant legislative achievements was sponsoring Jessica’s Law, the successful 2006 initiative that tightened restrictions on paroled sex offenders.
In 2012, Runner announced that she would not seek re-election after a rare autoimmune disease, know as scleroderma, required a life-saving double lung transplant. She became an advocate for organ donation.
In an interview two years ago, as she planned her comeback, Runner said she was enjoying hiking, zip-lining and riding roller coasters with her grandchildren after spending considerable time in intensive care.
“What’s truly important is that we send someone to Sacramento as quickly as possible to combat the job-killing over-regulation, over-taxation and the dangerous situation created by early release of felons by Proposition 47 and realignment,” she said after deciding to seek a return to the Senate.
California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte said early Thursday that the people of California and the people of the Antelope Valley have lost a great friend.
“Sharon Runner’s life was one of service. Whether it was establishing a Christian day school to help educate children, serving first in the California state Assembly and then in the California state Senate, or fighting for initiatives to protect families in California – Sharon was committed to the people of her community and our great state,” Brulte said.
“As we mourn the loss of Sharon, our prayers go out to her husband, George, and we pray that the loving arms of God embrace him at this difficult time.”
Gov. Jerry Brown said Runner “selflessly served her constituents, her community and the state of California over the years. Our thoughts are with the Runner family on this difficult day.” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, acting governor while Brown travels in Europe, ordered flags at state buildings to be flown at half-staff.
Runner is survived by her husband, son Micah and daughter-in-law Sandy, daughter Rebekah and son-in-law James, and grandchildren Raider, Hailey, James and Paxton.
Donations in Runner’s memory can be made to Grace Resources. Services are pending.