Candi Easter, former chairwoman of the Kern County Democratic Party, died Thursday after a short illness, friends said.
She was 71.
"We lost her this afternoon," said longtime friend Linda Northam Barbour, who was at Easter's side when she died at Mercy Southwest Hospital at 3:15 p.m. "So sad."
Easter, known by the local Democratic faithful as "the Queen," served as the county's Democratic Party chairwoman from November 2004 until July 2014, when she stepped down to care for her ailing elderly father. She remained on the party's executive committee.
"That was an elected position," she said at the time. "My position as 'Queen' goes for life."
Easter, who was unmarried, was an only child whose parents had both passed, Barbour said. "There was a group of us, her closest friends, that she counted on. We were her family, this small group," Barbour said.
Don Martin, owner of Metro Galleries in downtown Bakersfield, had known Easter since his days at KBAK-TV.
"She had a wit," he said. "And she was tough. I remember the day I met her. I walked into the studio one day and there she was, (invited to be) a political pundit for a broadcast. I thought, here's this kind of round, gray-haired lady. Yep, Democrat. And then she told it like it was."
"I only wish she could have lived to see Nov. 7."
Facebook tributes were rolling in Thursday afternoon.
"RIP Candi Easter," wrote Helen Acosta. "I loved your laugh, your margaritas and your deep blue Democratic work that began the change we are seeing in Kern County!"
One of those close friends was Bakersfield City Councilman Willie Rivera. Barbour said Rivera, whom Easter considered a surrogate son, would be making final arrangements on his friend's behalf. Rivera said Easter had requested a very small, private service.