Associated Press

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) _ State Rep. Paul Luebke of Durham, a strong and consistent liberal voice on policy issues, has died at age 70, a close friend said.

Luebke suffered from lymphoma and died Saturday night, Durham City Council member Steve Schewel said Sunday.

Luebke served in the state House of Representatives for the past 25 years, representing part of Durham. He was a strong and consistent liberal voice on policy issues including the death penalty, education, gay marriage, abortion and programs to help the poor.

He was a persistent defender of low-income residents during debates over tax legislation he believed would disproportionately harm the poor. He also opposed large taxpayer-funded economic incentives to lure specific corporations to the state.

His full-time job was as a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He wrote two books about the history and practice of North Carolina politics as of 1990 and updated for 2000. The latter described the diverging interests of urban modernizers and small-town traditionalists as the political divide beyond party labels.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory praised Luebke’s “undeniable passion” for public service, which his Democratic challenger Roy Cooper said the lawmaker “never wavered from advocating for justice and fairness.”

“Paul had an unprecedented concern for working and marginalized communities and families,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham. “He always put them first in every public policy debate.” Luebke was one of the longest-serving House members and the heavy favorite to win a 14th two-year term next month in his Durham County district over a Republican challenger.

With Luebke’s death, Durham County Democratic leaders can choose a replacement nominee for Luebke’s 30th District. His name will remain on ballots.