Texas Rep. Edmund Kuempel, a Republican from Seguin, died Thursday morning at University Medical Center Brackenridge following a heart attack.
Earlier that morning, the 67-year-old legislator was rushed to the hospital from a convenience store on Riverside Drive after complaining of heart pains. Attempts to revive him on the way to and at the hospital were unsuccessful.
“Once he passed out, he didn’t interact with the health care workers anymore,” said Christopher Ziebell, medical director of the Emergency Department at University Medical Center Brackenridge. “The heart becomes more and more difficult to restart after each cardiac arrest.”
First elected in 1982, Kuempel was the fifth most senior member of the Texas House of Representatives and chair of the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, which handles gambling legislation. He was also a member of the powerful House Calendars Committee, which determines what bills come up for debate before the House.
Kuempel had a history of heart problems — in May 2009, he suffered a massive heart attack while riding an elevator at the Capitol. He had a defibrillator surgically implanted after that incident.
“When he first came back after the heart attack he had last session, I came up to him and told him, ‘You old kraut, I guess God didn’t want you,’ and he just laughed,” said Rep. Jim McReynolds, who served with Kuempel in the Texas House for 14 years. “He’s just my brother. It’s a terrible loss.”
McReynolds described Kuempel as a man who was serious about policy and work at the Capitol but loved life.
“We called him Kissin’ Ed because he wanted to kiss everybody,” McReynolds said. “He’d walk up and down the aisle getting sugar from every girl on the House floor.”
Gov. Rick Perry, who was in New York on a book tour Thursday, released a statement mourning the loss of Kuempel, calling the late representative a pillar of the Legislature.
“He was already making a name for himself in the House when I got there,” Perry said. “I’ve never known Austin without him.”
Perry ordered flags at state office buildings to be lowered to half-staff as a show of respect for the longtime representative.