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Friendship without ideology

This essay was originally published by POLITICO.

Few senators have left such a mark on the Senate as Nancy Kassebaum. She was a dedicated and determined public servant who always put people above politics. In the decade we served together, I saw her advocate every day for her home state of Kansas — whether it was in the committees or on the Senate floor.

When I was first elected to represent Maryland in the Senate, I was the only Democratic woman and Nancy was the only Republican woman to serve in that chamber. In those days, because there were so few of us, there was pressure for us to act like celebrities instead of senators. Not only did Nancy resist that pressure — it didn’t even cross her mind.

Nancy accomplished tremendous things in her years as a senator. But it wasn’t just what she did, it’s how she did it. When I became a senator, she was so welcoming to me, offering tips and insights in my early days navigating the Senate. It’s a tradition I have tried to honor as Dean of the Senate Women, where I mentor and advise women who currently serve as senators.

She was an inspiration, teacher, mentor and good friend — and she still is.

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