BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana Republican lawmaker Rep. Dale Mortensen has died.
State House Speaker Greg Hertz confirmed Mortensen's death Wednesday, The Billings Gazette reported.
The Billings Heights three-term lawmaker was first elected in 2014 and was 53, officials said.
Mortensen was in inpatient physical rehabilitation for back problems and was fighting a spinal infection before his death, fellow Billings Heights Republican Sen. Doug Kary said.
The cause of death is undetermined, Yellowstone County Coroner Cliff Mahoney said. A toxicology report was ordered and results are not expected for several weeks.
"He had some medical issues that were very hard to overcome, but he was upbeat," said Sen. Roger Webb, a Republican, after he visited with the fellow lawmaker two weeks ago. “I asked him if he was going to run again and said to let me know if there was anything I could do help.”
Mortensen told The Gazette in May last year that he was recovering his health, but declined to specify more amid privacy concerns.
“I'm saddened to hear of the passing of Rep. Dale Mortensen. Lisa and I are sending our thoughts to his colleagues and family,” Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, said in a post on Twitter.
The bill to create a satellite state crime lab in Billings was probably the most significant thing Mortensen did for the city and eastern Montana, Webb said.
Mortensen served as a member of the Montana House of Representatives committees on agriculture, judiciary and natural resources in 2015, 2017 and 2019, lawmakers said. He also had a background in law enforcement.
The Yellowstone County Republican Central Committee will forward the names of three nominees to the county commission, which will select a replacement legislator to take the now vacant seat, officials said.