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Patricia Wiggins, 73, former Calif. rep overcame deafness, told it like it was with ‘salty language’

In this photaken May 29 2008 is former state Sen. PatriciWiggins D-SantRoswho passed away Thursday Aug. 15 2013. Wiggins 73

In this photo taken May 29, 2008, is former state Sen. Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, who passed away Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. Wiggins, 73, was elected to the Assembly in 1998 and served six years in the Assembly and four years in the Senate. She announced in 2009 that she would not seek reelection in 2010. Wiggins is survived by her husband of 30 years, Guy Conner, two stepsons and four grandchildren. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) ORG XMIT: SC107

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Updated: September 19, 2013 10:19AM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Patricia Wiggins, a former California state lawmaker who represented areas north of San Francisco for more than a decade, died Thursday.

Ms. Wiggins, 73, was elected to the Assembly in 1998 and the Senate in 2006 after serving on the Santa Rosa City Council. In her last elected office, the Democrat represented the 2nd Senate District, which included all or parts of Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties.

Family spokesman Matt Reilly, her former chief of staff, said Ms. Wiggins died early Thursday.

Her final few years in the Senate were marred by sometimes erratic behavior. She was removed from her major committee assignments in 2010 and was absent much of that final year before retiring because of an undisclosed medical condition.

“She really struggled,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, said before the Senate adjourned in her memory Thursday. “Even as she ended her term, she was not well.”

Yet Steinberg said Ms. Wiggins was “never afraid to tell it like it was, even if it included some salty language.”

Other lawmakers recalled that she overcame physical impairments, including near total deafness.

Sen. Noreen Evans, who succeeded Ms. Wiggins, said her mentor mostly read lips to determine what people were saying.

“And the fact that a lot of people didn’t know about this profound disability that she struggled with is amazing to me and just shows the kind of character that she was because she overcame any difficulty, any obstacle in her way because she believed in what she was doing,” Evans said in a statement. “She believed strongly in representing the people who could not speak for themselves.”


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