British stone. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Former U.S. Senator David Durenberger died Tuesday at the age of 88.
Durenberg’s longtime spokesman Tom Horner said his health has declined in recent months. Horner told The Associated Press that Durenberg died of natural causes Tuesday morning. He is at his home in São Paulo, surrounded by family.
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Durenberger — a former executive secretary to Republican Gov. Harold LeVander, a former corporate lawyer and former U.S. Army Reserve captain — won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1978. He served three terms and supported health care reform. He pushed for proposals to expand Medicare benefits, protect the rights of people with disabilities, including the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, and promote gender equality.
“Senator Dave Durenberger is a true public servant,” U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, said in a statement. Klobuchar, who held Durenberger’s old seat, said he personally showed her a lot of kindness when she was first elected in 2006.
“He was a dedicated lawmaker who was always guided by his commitment to bipartisanship and improving people’s lives,” Klobuchar said. “His work to advance the Americans with Disabilities Act and prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities has improved the lives of millions and made our country stronger.”
Durenberger’s first wife, Judy, died of breast cancer in 1970, leaving him a widower with four sons. His son, Dave Durenberger, said he remains an active father and regularly attends their athletic meet.
When he ran for office in the late 1970s, his sons helped stuff envelopes at their dinner table, marched in parades and helped campaign.
“He’s the North Star we need in life,” Dave Durenberg said.
When he was promoted in the Senate, Durenburg went through a difficult time in his personal life. He separated from his wife, Penny, in 1985 — when he discussed his personal pain publicly with several reporters. In 1995, he married former employee Susan Foote.
Dave Durenberger said his father has been a regular presence at his grandchildren’s schools and sporting events in recent years. He said Durenberg showed his family how to value people regardless of their social status.
“He tries to find that kindness or common bond that he shares with everyone. Everyone has the potential to be his friend—whether it’s the King of Jordan or a Jordanian immigrant driving a cab,” Dave Durenberger said.
But Senator Durenberger’s career hit a low point in 1990. The Senate unanimously condemned him after an ethics committee investigated book royalties he received and federal reimbursements for his Minneapolis apartment. In 1995, Durenberger also pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor charges related to the apartment payments.
“If there’s a smudge on the seal of the U.S. Senate or the star of the North, as we like to call our state, I’ll do my best to polish both,” Durenberger told his Senate colleagues after the meeting of his rebuke.
In 1994, he decided not to run for re-election. After retiring from politics, he worked on several initiatives focused on health care policy. As chair of the National Institute for Health Policy at the University of St. Thomas Business School, he addresses systemic health care issues.
Durenburgh has emerged as a critic as the GOP leans toward fiscal conservatives who focus on cutting government programs. In 2005, he said on a political podcast in Minnesota that Democrats were “better positioned to win” on health care policy, though he said at the time that he would not be a Democrat.
He supported Democrats Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden over Donald Trump in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. In 2018, he co-authored a book with political journalist Lori Sturdevant titled “When Republicans Progress.” It mourns a nearly extinct branch of the Republican Party, where lawmakers pride themselves on bipartisanship and try to help the underprivileged.
Horner said the funeral will be held next week at Durenberger’s alma mater, St. John’s University in Collegeville.
Groves reported from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.