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North Dakota's longest-serving attorney general, Wayne Stenehjem, has died suddenly at the age of 68.

Stenehjem's office announced his death Friday evening, saying he "passed away unexpectedly." He had been hospitalized after a medical call to his home Friday morning.

"We know Wayne was a widely respected and well-known public figure, but we ask that his family be allowed time to grieve in private," it added.

Stenehjem's brother Allan told the Bismarck Tribune that his brother had no known health issues that may have led to his hospitalization. He had recently announced his plans to step down this year to spend more time with his family, at the time saying he was in good health.

It's not clear at this stage what caused his death, though Allan Stenehjem told the Tribune it wasn't COVID-19 related.

Stenehjem is the longest serving AG in North Dakota history, having first being elected to the role in 2000.

Among those paying tribute is North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, who said: "It was an honor and a privilege to serve alongside Wayne on the North Dakota Industrial Commission and state Land Board. No matter how complex or contentious the issue, we all benefited from his incredible intellect, legal expertise and professionalism. He cared deeply about North Dakota and wanted only the best for its citizens.

"Kathryn and I extend our deepest condolences and prayers to Beth, Andrew and the entire Stenehjem family, his current and former colleagues from the Attorney General’s Office and Legislature, his friends throughout state government and the entire law enforcement community as we grieve this terrible loss."

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