A deputy district attorney and up-and-coming Republican political star in California’s Orange County has died abruptly after telling friends she contracted COVID-19.
Kelly Ernby, a presumed candidate for the state Assembly in 2022, was only 46 years old. According to the Los Angeles Times, she fell ill shortly after speaking out against vaccine mandates at a rally organized by Turning Point USA on Dec. 4.
“There’s nothing that matters more than our freedoms right now,” she was quoted telling the crowd during the rally at Irvine City Hall.
It was not immediately clear where or how she contracted the virus. Her death has sparked an outpouring of tributes from colleagues who praised her for her passion and experience.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer devoted a lengthy Twitter thread to Ernby on Monday, calling her “an incredibly vibrant and passionate attorney who cared deeply about the work that we do as prosecutors—and deeply about the community we all fight so hard to protect.”
“It was an absolute privilege to fight the good fight alongside Kelly,” Spitzer wrote. “Her passion and her shining light will be forever missed.”
“My heart is broken and I'm in tears. I lost a dear friend to Covid complications. I love you @KellyErnby ! You’ve been nothing but an inspiration to many of us here in Orange County,” Ben Chapman, chairman of the Greater Costa Mesa Republicans, wrote on Twitter, alongside a photo of himself and Ernby.
The Orange County Republicans, for whom Ernby had served as the precinct operations chair, said news of her death had caused “great sadness.”
The group noted only that Ernby had died unexpectedly after a “brief illness,” saying “we have hope in this tragedy because we know she had a deep faith.”
In a sad sign of the times, Ernby’s death also led to a public feud between anti-vaxxers and pro-vaxxers in the comments section of her Facebook page, with pro-vaxxers posting memes appearing to mock her death and anti-vaxxers falsely claiming she had died as a result of the COVID-19 jab.
Ernby’s husband, Mattias Ernby, appeared to confirm his wife had not been vaccinated in response to a Facebook user who claimed she had died of blood clots after getting vaccinated.
“She was NOT vaccinated. That was the problem,” Mattias Ernby wrote.
The daughter of two Navy veterans, Ernby had nearly two decades of legal experience and had run for state Assembly in 2020, with her campaign focusing on border security, and “conservative values in California,” among other things.
“Kelly and I spent a lot of time together on the campaign trail in 2020. She was one of the few people in politics that always came across as real, authentic, caring and passionate,” Brian Burley, a Republican who ran for Congress last cycle, tweeted of her political talent.