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Dave Cogdill, who paid a political price for his role in ending the 2009 budget crisis, dies at 66

Former state Sen. Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), seated on the floor in 2010. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Former state Sen. Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), seated on the floor in 2010. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Dave Cogdill, a Central Valley Republican whose support for temporary taxes during the state's economic meltdown ended his legislative career, died Sunday after battling pancreatic cancer, his family said. He was 66.

A real estate appraiser in Modesto, Cogdill served three terms in the state Assembly, and served as assessor of Stanislaus County after his departure from the Legislature. Since 2013, he has been the president and CEO of the California Building Industry Assn.

"He selflessly dedicated his life to his family and community," said his son, David Cogdill Jr., in an emailed statement about his father's death. "Throughout his life, he made such a difference in the lives of so many people."

Cogdill was less than a year into his tenure as Republican leader of the state Senate when the state's fiscal crisis, exacerbated by the national recession, forced lawmakers to consider a $42-billion deficit-reduction package in February 2009.  The proposal included more than $14 billion in temporary taxes, embraced as a necessity by Democrats and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger but angrily denounced by most Republicans.

Cogdill helped craft the deal as one of the Legislature's leaders, but found it a hard sell with his fellow GOP senators. Over the course of several days, no Republican in the Senate would join Cogdill in supporting the plan. Two other GOP senators ultimately agreed to the deal, which Schwarzenegger immediately signed into law.

Shortly after midnight on Feb. 15, 2009, a majority of members of Cogdill's caucus fired him as leader during a heated closed-door meeting — during which reporters gathered in the hallway could hear the shouting. Cogdill calmly returned to his seat on the Senate floor as Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta) was announced as the Republican leader.

Three days later, Schwarzenegger praised Cogdill, telling reporters that the Republican "did what was right for the people."

On Sunday, the former governor took to Twitter to praise his fellow Republican.

"Dave Cogdill was a fantastic friend, a great leader & a true public servant who put the people above all else," Schwarzenegger wrote.

Gov. Jerry Brown echoed those comments, writing in a tweet that the late GOP leader "always put [California's] interests above party."

Cogdill did not run for reelection to the state Senate in 2010, and returned home to Modesto. That same year, he and the three other legislative leaders who crafted the multibillion dollar deficit package were awarded the Profile In Courage award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

"It's an example for legislators across the country and also for Americans that we really need to solve the problems that our country faces," said Caroline Kennedy, the late president's daughter, in a 2010 television interview on the award presented to California's four legislative leaders.

Cogdill is survived by his wife and two adult children.

Update July 24 9:51 a.m.: This story has been updated with comments from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jerry Brown. It was originally published at 10:21 a.m. on July 23.

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