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Former Nebraska Sen. Karnes passes away at 71

Posted at 2:25 PM, Oct 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-25 21:28:35-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - David Karnes, a former United States Senator for Nebraska, passed away Sunday.

Karnes, an Omaha native, was 71 years old. The Omaha World-Herald reported that Karnes had been battling cancer.

The Republican served in office from March 1987 to January 1989, originally being appointed by then-Gov. Kay Orr to fill the Senate vacancy created by the death of Edward Zorinsky.

At the time he was sworn in, Karnes was the youngest U.S. Senator.

Karnes ran in an effort to retain the seat in 1988. He survived a primary challenge from Hal Daub but lost to Democrat Bob Kerrey in the general election.

In more recent years, Karnes kept busy in various endeavors, including as counsel to the law firm Kutak Rock. He also served on the Omaha Airport Authority, a seat he was to hold until 2023.

Karnes graduated from Benson High School and later the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

Karnes was married twice and leaves behind his second wife, Kristine, and several children.

His first wife, Elizabeth, passed away in 2003 after a battle with cancer. David helped establish a cancer research fund, Liz's Legacy, in her memory.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert released the following statement after David Karnes' death:

"We have lost a great and dedicated friend. Dave Karnes spent his life in service to our city and country. As a United States Senator, an advocate for cancer research and awareness, a community volunteer, husband and father, Dave worked for all of us. Even as he battled a cancer diagnosis, he was instrumental in helping the City of Omaha secure CARES Act funds to preserve important services for our citizens. Dave served on the Omaha Airport Authority Board of Directors and his wife Kris is a member of the Omaha Planning Board. I will miss Dave's friendship and counsel. Please keep his Kris and the Karnes family in your prayers." - Mayor Jean Stothert

Sen. Ben Sasse also expressed condolences:

"This is heartbreaking news. Dave was a great man who tirelessly served Nebraskans. His work in Washington and here at home helped so many folks across our state. His selflessness and hard work made Nebraska proud. Melissa and I are praying for Dave’s wife and daughters."

Rep. Don Bacon tweeted:

Gov. Pete Ricketts tweeted:

Sen. Deb Fischer issued the following remarks:

“Nebraskans admired Senator Karnes’ dedicated service and his commitment to our state and his community. I always appreciated his support and was honored to have him escort me on the floor of the U.S. Senate when I was sworn in for my first term. I will miss conversations with my good friend. My condolences go out to his wife Kris, his children, and his family as they mourn this difficult loss.”

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