Former NC Commerce Secretary Crisco dies suddenly - WSFX - FOX Wilmington, NC

Former NC Commerce Secretary Crisco dies suddenly during campaign

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Keith Crisco, Congressional candidate and former state Commerce Secretary (Source: WNCN-TV) Keith Crisco, Congressional candidate and former state Commerce Secretary (Source: WNCN-TV)
ASHEBORO, NC (WECT/AP) -

Keith Crisco, the former state Commerce Secretary turned candidate for Congress, died unexpectedly at his home Monday afternoon. He was 71 years old.

The North Carolina textile entrepreneur was locked in a too-close-to-call Democratic Party primary with former "American Idol" singer Clay Aiken. There were less than 400 votes separating Crisco and Aiken after Tuesday's Democratic primary contest in the Republican-leaning 2nd Congressional District. Aiken had been in the lead.

Aiken posted on Twitter that "I am suspending all campaign activities as we pray for (Keith Crisco's) family and friends."

The president of the company Crisco founded says Crisco died after an accident. AEC Narrow Fabrics President Robert Lawson says Crisco's son notified company employees of the death.

Crisco had been North Carolina's top business recruiter for four years under former Go. Beverly Perdue, who left office in 2013.

Many of North Carolina's elected leaders released statements regarding Crisco's passing.

"Brooke and I were shocked to hear the news of Keith Crisco's untimely death.  I considered Keith a close, personal friend and I know how much he cared for the state of North Carolina. He will be greatly missed.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Keith's family at this difficult time." – Sen. Richard Burr (R)-NC

"I am shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of Keith Crisco, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Jane, and his entire family, who have suffered a terrible loss. I had the distinct privilege of working with Keith for many years and I was honored to call him a friend. Keith was a savvy businessman, a passionate public servant and a champion for economic development, but more than that, he was kind. Keith's inherent kindness was evident to everyone he met, and he dedicated his life to making North Carolina a better place to live for everyone. While he worked tirelessly to bring good jobs to our state, he stood up for education, for our seniors and the most vulnerable among us – always pushing to make North Carolina a little stronger and a little better. Our state is undoubtedly better and stronger because of Keith Crisco's service." – Sen. Kay Hagan (D)-NC

"My heart sank, like so many other people who admired Keith Crisco, when I learned of his sudden passing. While I was a mayor, and now as governor, Keith was a partner, collaborator and strong advocate for the state he loved. Although Keith was a Democrat and a Pfeiffer University graduate, and I went to Catawba and am a Republican, nothing could stop Keith Crisco from building a lasting friendship. North Carolina was blessed and is a better state because of his leadership."  - Gov. Pat McCrory (R)-NC

"I got to know Secretary Crisco when Governor Perdue appointed him to be her Secretary of Commerce. Keith was a brilliant problem solver who liked to make good, solid public policy. He would have made a great Congressman and I know he felt strongly that the Second Congressional District needed new leadership in Washington. The Democratic family and North Carolina has lost a strong leader and our condolences go out to the Crisco family and community." – Randy Voller – Chairman, NC Democratic Party

"We are incredibly shocked and saddened to hear about Keith Crisco's sudden passing. Keith was an accomplished businessman and public servant with a sterling reputation and a tremendous amount of respect from North Carolinians across the partisan spectrum. Keith, like my father, served the state as Commerce Secretary with dignity and humility, and also like my father, passed away well before his time. Keith's family is in our thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time."Claude Pope – Chairman, NC Republican Party

Copyright 2014 WECT. The Associated Press contributed material to this report.

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