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Former state Sen. John Vasconcellos, a Santa Clara Democrat who served almost four decades in the Legislature, is gravely ill.

Vasconcellos has been in a San Jose hospital the past several days, where his condition has worsened. He has spoken with friends and colleagues in recent days.

"I hope everyone is praying for our dear friend John Vasconcellos," said Barbara O'Connor, a former Cal State Sacramento communications professor who has known Vasconcellos since 1972. "He's very ill and he needs all the help he can get."

Rich Robinson, a former aide to Vasconcellos who is with the senator, declined to comment Friday.

"Even giants need our prayers. Keep Senator John Vasconcellos in your thoughts today. Perform an act of kindness in his honor," former state Sen. Liz Figueroa, who served with Vasconcellos, posted on Twitter on Friday.

Vasconcellos served in the Assembly from 1966 through 1996, when he moved to the state Senate and served through 2004. He carried legislation on a variety of topics, especially education and government transparency. During his last term, Vasconcellos' Senate website referred to him as "a pragmatic idealist," "the conscience of the Legislature," and "the Johnny Appleseed of self esteem."

After leaving office, he founded Politics of Trust, a group dedicated to fostering "a new politics, based on our highest aspirations and a new, healing vision."

PHOTO: Former state Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, makes a telephone call from the floor of the Senate chambers in February 2003, during his final term in the Legislature. The Sacramento Bee / Dick Schmidt



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