Jessica Campbell, the actress who played Carver High School’s firebrand student presidential candidate Tammy Metlzer in the 1999 cult classic Election, has died. Per Deadline and a verified crowdfunding page arranged by her cousin, the former actress died suddenly on December 29 after collapsing in a bathroom in Portland. As of now, her cause of death is unknown. “Her passion for life and the people in it was astounding,” reads the tribute in the GoFundMe campaign for Campbell’s memorial. “In addition to the impressive energy she poured into her own life, Jessica, on multiple occasions, dropped everything to travel across state lines and care for her loved ones in need. She was fun, she was loud, she was compassionate and loyal; no matter what she did, she was always uniquely Jessica.” She was 38.
Though Alexander Payne’s enduring adaptation centers on the fiery ambition of Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), Campbell’s character has long been heralded as the hero of the story, galvanizing the school against the race by asserting her perspective about the “same pathetic charade” in a rousing, refreshingly honest speech. Sharp-tongued and fiercely passionate, Campbell was championed by the indie film community and fans for a standout performance that matched the energy of veterans Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick. Her work in Election was so resonant that it landed her an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Debut Performance. She then went on to appear on two episodes of Freaks And Geeks and in Rose Troche’s The Safety Of Objects. She left acting in 2002, opting for a quieter but still adventurous life as a mother and naturopathic practitioner. Campbell is survived by her 10-year-old son, her husband Daniel, her mother and extended family.