Former state legislator Jim Johnson died Sunday at his Concord home, apparently from a heart attack.
In the Nov. 4 election, Johnson, a colorful 73-year-old lawyer who had switched parties in the past, was set to run as a Democrat against Republican Sen. Fletcher Hartsell.
Leaders from both parties said they were sad and surprised to hear the news.
“We're very shocked,” said Cabarrus County Democratic chairman Wendy Wood. “He was a very passionate man and had lots of good ideas on how to make things better for North Carolinians.
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Local Republican chairman Christopher McCartan sent an e-mail to the news media Monday evening, mourning the passing of “one of the pillars of the community.”
“State Senator Johnson served as both a Republican and a Democrat during his tenure, which included terms in the Senate, the General Assembly, and on the Bench,” McCartan said.
“He always had a smile on his face, a joke in the arsenal, and always took the time to look out for others.”
McCartan also called Johnson a “tenacious competitor.”
Johnson was first elected to the state House in 1963 as a Republican and served four terms. He switched to Democrat in the 1970s, then to Republican again about 1980. He was elected to the state Senate in 1983 as a Republican, then returned to the Democratic fold in 1987 and has remained in that party since. He served three terms in the Senate.
Wood said local Democrats are not concerned about election questions now.
“People are just not there yet,” she said.
Gordon Funeral Home of Mount Pleasant is handling the arrangements. The visitation is 5-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home, 8559 Cook St., Mount Pleasant. The funeral is 11 a.m. Thursday at Central United Methodist Church, 30 Union St. N., Concord.