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Don Hahnfeldt, Republican lawmaker, former submarine commander, dies unexpectedly

Republican state Representative Don Hahnfeldt has died of cancer. He was 73.

Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran confirmed Hahnfeldt’s death Monday afternoon, notifying members “of the passing of our friend and colleague Representative Don Hahnfeldt.”

Corcoran echoed the consensus assessment of Hahnfeldt: that he led an impressive life, which included service as a submarine commander in the U.S. Navy. A biography on his campaign website touted that under Hahnfeldt’s leadership, “a group of nuclear experts confronted the challenge of dealing with radioactive waste disposal from the infamous Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in Russia.”

After a 32-year military career, Hahnfeldt moved to The Villages, the rapidly-growing retirement community located in central Florida. There he served as president of The Villages Homeowners Association, then as a Sumter County commissioner. In 2016, he was elected to the Florida House.

Hahnfeldt represented District 33, which includes Sumter and parts of Lake and Marion counties.

Don Hahnfeldt, far left, along with other House members, is sworn in by Judge Nicholas Thompson, during Organization Session in November 2016.

As a state lawmaker, “he was committed to always doing the right thing for his community and for Florida,” attested his colleague, state Rep. Joe Gruters.

Known as a traditional conservative, Hahnfeldt recently filed legislation to increase the minimum legal age from 18 to 21 to buy cigarettes, tobacco chew and electronic vaping devices and products. He also earned extensive media coverage earlier this year for his proposal to require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets.

“Don was someone who served without wanting anything in return,” remarked state Rep. Randy Fine. “He was unafraid to stand up for his convictions in a world where too many struggle.”

Gov. Rick Scott expressed his condolences to Hahnfeldt’s family via a statement released Monday.

“My wife Ann and I are saddened by the news of Representative Don Hahnfeldt’s passing,” Scott said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”

Hahnfeldt is survived by his wife, Cheryle, his three children, Christiana, Katherine, and Jennifer, and seven grandchildren, John, Analiese, Madalyn, Thomas, Andrew, Henry, and Cullen.

After Corcoran shared the news of Hahnfeldt’s passing, House members took to social media to eulogize their former colleague.

“Very saddened by the passing of Don Hahnfeldt,” Rep. Dane Eagle tweeted. “He lived an impressive life and was an immovable, principled force in the Florida House. Many prayers to his family. Hold your loved ones close this Christmas and every day.”

Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican slated to become House Speaker in 2020, tweeted: “Our whole Florida House family is saddened by the passing of our colleague Rep. Don Hahnfeldt. Our hearts go out to his wife, his children and his grandchildren. As well as all their friends and neighbors. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”

Hahnfeldt’s death comes little more than two weeks before the Jan. 9 start of the 2018 Legislative Session. He served on six legislative panels, including serving as vice chairman of the House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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