State Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, R-The Villages, died unexpectedly Sunday evening. He was 73.
Hahnfeldt was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2016 after a lengthy career in the U.S. Navy, where he served for 32 years as a nuclear submarine commander of the Pacific Fleet's Strategic Submarine Squadron.
Before entering Tallahassee politics, Hahnfeldt was involved in local politics and was elected to the Sumter County Commission in 2012.
The cause of death is currently unknown, but Hahnfeldt’s fellow legislators mourned the loss of their friend and colleague on Monday.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, confirmed Hahnfeldt’s passing in a tweet posted Monday afternoon.
“The entire Florida House mourns the loss of our colleague and friend, Representative Don Hahnfeldt,” Corcoran wrote. “We honor and remember his service to our Country and our State. Please pray for his family in this difficult time.”
Legislators recalled a stellar lawmaker and an even better friend in the political process.
“His life was impressive,” said Rep. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, who roomed with Hahnfeldt in Tallahassee. “He was committed to always doing the right thing for his community and for Florida...this guy was a real superstar.”
Gov. Rick Scott expressed his condolences to Hahnfeldt’s family in a statement released Monday.
“My wife Ann and I are saddened by the news of Representative Don Hahnfeldt’s passing,” Scott said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”
Hahnfeldt represented House District 33, which covers parts of Central Florida including portions of Inverness and The Villages. He made headlines recently when he filed legislation to raise the legal buying age for tobacco from 18 to 21.
“Our whole Florida House family is saddened by the passing of our colleague Rep. Don Hahnfeldt,” said Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor. “Our hearts go out to his wife, his children and his grandchildren..as well as all their friends and neighbors.”
Other state representatives said they were “heartbroken” over the news, which spread through the political airwaves Christmas Day.
“He was such an incredible man who was loved by so many,” said Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson.
This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.