A long-time state legislator from northwest Iowa has died. Sixty-four-year-old Mary Lou Freeman was found dead in her home east of Alta, which is near Storm Lake.
Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the home Tuesday night at about six o’clock. Authorities say she died of natural causes. Freeman had surgery this past January as treatment for breast cancer and then underwent chemotherapy.
Freeman, a Republican, was first elected to the state Senate in a special election in 1994 to serve out the term of a state senator who died in office. When legislative district maps were re-drawn after the 2000 census, Freeman decided to run for a seat in the Iowa House rather than face-off against another senator. She was running unopposed this fall for a third term in the House.
House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, recently spoke with Freeman. “Nobody’s more shocked about this than I am. Mary Lou and I were just talking last week. We were talking about the status of campaigns and elections,” Rants says. “You know, Mary Lou — even though she was unopposed this year — was interested in what’s going on in other parts of the state and she was offering me a little bit of encouragement.”
Rants says Freeman will be remembered for her work in promoting wind energy. Rants says if you drive around Freeman’s home area in northwest Iowa, you see the development that’s occured there. “She’s left her mark, I think,” Rants says. He cites the growing number of wind turbines in other areas of the state as evidence of Freeman’s collaboration with other legislators on bills that encouraged investment in wind turbines.
“She’s battled cancer and, you know, she never failed to show up in the House with a smile on her face,” Rants says. “We’re all going to miss her very much.”
Freeman’s husband, who is deceased, was a state legislator, too. A special election will be held in December to fill the House seat Freeman had occupied. The deadline for political parties to place nominees on this November’s ballot was August 18th.