LANCASTER – Senator Sharon Runner (R-Antelope Valley) died Thursday morning at the age of 62, according to a statement from her family.
“We are heartbroken to share that Sharon passed away today at the age of 62 following respiratory complications. She died peacefully at home, surrounded by family and friends,” the statement reads. “Through her life Sharon held tight to her favorite Bible verse, Proverbs 3:5-6, trusting in the Lord through all obstacles. We take comfort in the fact that the Lord truly directed her path, and she is now home in the arms of her Savior.”
Runner announced in March that she would not seek re-election to the California State Senate, citing medical challenges.
Runner, who underwent a double lung transplant in 2012, said doctors advised her that the stress of a campaign and four more years in the Legislature would be detrimental to her health. Runner’s current term was slated to end in December 2016.
Sharon Runner’s official biography
A lifelong resident of the High Desert, Sharon Runner was a proud and effective representative of her home district in both the California State Assembly and California State Senate. A dedicated public servant, she was well known for her fierce devotion to the causes important to her as well as her bright personality and kind disposition.
Sharon was elected to the California State Assembly in 2002 and served until term limited in 2008. During this time, she and her husband, current Board of Equalization Member George Runner, were the first husband and wife in California history to have served concurrently in the Legislature. Sharon was appointed Assistant Republican Leader by then Republican Leader and current Congressman Kevin McCarthy. She also held key fiscal leadership positions, serving as the Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee and as a member of the Budget Committee and Budget Subcommittee on Education.
Sharon was later elected in a special election to the State Senate in 2011, representing Los Angeles, Ventura, Kern and San Bernardino counties. She was the seventh Republican woman in California’s history to be elected to the State Senate and served the remainder of the term.
On February 24, 2012, Sharon underwent a successful double lung transplant as a result of “Limited” Scleroderma, an autoimmune disease affecting her lungs. She returned to work in the Senate but opted not to run for re-election. Described as a “walking miracle,” Sharon recovered fully and regained her active lifestyle.
In 2015, Sharon was asked to run in a special election for the 21st Senate District; and after a successful recruitment effort, she decided to enter the race. She was the only candidate on the ballot, and easily won re-election to the Senate. She was sworn in on March 19th, 2015.
During her second Senate term, Sharon served as Vice Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees the day-to-day operations of the Senate, and conducts the confirmation process for Governor appointments to state agencies, departments and commissions. She also served as the Vice Chair of the Senate Education Committee and was a member of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee.
Over her years serving in the Legislature, her public policy goals focused on public safety, education, and children’s issues, including the foster care and adoption community.
Perhaps the most noteworthy of her extensive list of public achievements, Sharon was the co-author of California’s Proposition 83, or Jessica’s Law, which passed in 2006 with 70 percent voter approval and created the nation’s toughest sexual predator laws. Throughout her Legislative career, she continued to stand behind Jessica’s Law, authoring bills to strengthen and protect the integrity of the measure.
Sharon’s service to her community and state extended far beyond her work as an elected official.
Sharon’s dedication to serving the public began in 1977 when she and her husband George co-founded Desert Christian Schools (DCS). Under her leadership, the school laid the groundwork necessary to become one of the largest private schools in California. Today, DCS serves nearly 1,700 students of all ages at its three campuses.
She sat on the Board of Directors for the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and was appointed by California Governor Pete Wilson to the Antelope Valley Fair Board of Directors, where she oversaw the operations of the 50th Agriculture District and managed its multimillion dollar budget. She served on the Fair Board from 1998 until 2002.
Sharon had a profound interest in expanding the role of women in government. She served as President of California Women Lead, a bipartisan organization that encourages and empowers women running for public office. She also served as the PAC chair of California’s Women’s Leadership Association and worked as a co-chair of Meg Whitman for Governor.
She has volunteered with Donate Life CA and served on the Sierra Donor Services Advisory Board and the National Scleroderma Foundation Legislative Committee. She also worked with charter schools, developing programs to help at-risk students achieve academic success.
Other boards and committees that benefited from Sharon’s membership include the United Way, Antelope Valley Hospital Gift Foundation, Antelope Valley Crime Task Force, Healthy Homes Advisory Council, and Care Net, a pregnancy resource center.
Sharon is survived by her husband George, son Micah and daughter-in-law Sandy, daughter Rebekah and son-in-law James, and grandchildren Raider, Hailey, James, and Paxton.
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