staff and news service reports
updated 10/22/2011 3:17:59 AM ET 2011-10-22T07:17:59

Washington state Sen. Scott White, a transit advocate who quickly rose to a leadership position in the Legislature, was found dead Friday in a hotel room. He was 41.

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Kittitas County Sheriff Gene Dana said in a statement Friday night that the death remains unexplained and that authorities are investigating.

White was discovered by housekeeping staff after he failed to check out of his hotel room at the Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum, Wash. An autopsy is being arranged.

KOMO-TV reported that a "sudden heart attack" was suspected.

'Extraordinarily talented leader'
The Democrat represented the state's 46th District, covering northern parts of Seattle. White joined the Senate last year and rose to serve as the Senate's majority whip, advocating for transit issues as a caucus transportation leader. He worked most recently as a project manager at the University of Washington.

"He was an extraordinarily talented leader and an accomplished legislator," Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said in a statement. "The nobility and honor with which he approached his role as an elected official was rare, and his commitment was unprecedented."

White is survived by his wife and two children.

A native of Olympia, White played football at Timberline High School before going to both Western Washington University and the University of Washington. He worked on the King County Council, rising to serve as chief of staff before getting elected to the state House in 2008 before moving to the Senate two years later.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said White was never afraid to tackle difficult problems.

"I found him to be an absolute pleasure to work with, and a legislator who served his district and the entire state well," Gregoire said. "He had a bright and promising future ahead of him."

The Associated Press and staff contributed to this report.


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