Updated 4:02 p.m. ET, 11/19/2013
(CNN) - The political world in Virginia was rattled Tuesday with the news that longtime state legislator and former gubernatorial hopeful Creigh Deeds was hospitalized after being stabbed by his son at his home.
With more than 20 years in public service and two statewide campaigns under his belt, the Democrat is a known name across the commonwealth.
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Deeds famously lost to the current governor, Republican Bob McDonnell, in a 2009 gubernatorial race by a whopping 19-point margin. The race came four years after Deeds narrowly lost to McDonnell in the state Attorney General's race.
In a statement Tuesday morning, McDonnell described Deeds as "an exceptional and committed public servant" and urged Virginians to pray for a full recovery so Deeds can return for "for many more years of his public service."
Deeds currently represents the 25th Senate District that covers a central part of the commonwealth, including Charlottesville, and spreads west to Covington and Lexington. He lives in Bath County with his wife, Siobhan, whom he married in 2012. Deeds was previously married and divorced to another woman, Pam.
In addition to his son Gus, who died Tuesday from gunshot injuries, Deeds' children include three others: Amanda, Rebecca and Susannah.
First elected to the commonwealth's House of Delegates in 1991, Deeds won a special election to the state Senate in 2001. He then ran as the Democratic nominee for state Attorney General in 2005, losing to McDonnell in a narrow recount.
Deeds is also rare political breed, being one of the only rural elected Democrats in a state where they're now concentrated in cities and suburbs.
"Democrats look to him as a senior statesman in the Democratic caucus, they look to him for guidance," said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.
As a moderate, he's able to appeal to people on both sides of the aisle, Kidd added, which has helped him stay relevant despite losing two major bids for a top-ballot office.
"There's an earnestness about him, a genuineness about him, and he doesn't burn bridges," he said. "In some ways he speaks to the kind of politics that we ideally want but don't often get."
Virginia was one of two states holding a gubernatorial race in 2009, so the race received outsized attention compared to most contests for governor. Deeds won a three-way contest for the Democratic nomination, beating out Terry McAuliffe, who went on this year to become the nominee and win the gubernatorial contest.
Even though President Barack Obama carried Virginia just a year earlier, in 2008, Deeds struggled in his campaign against McDonnell.
Virginia also had a history of electing gubernatorial candidates whose party wasn't in the White House-that is, until this year when the commonwealth chose Democrat Terry McAuliffe to succeed McDonnell.
Obama campaigned for Deeds at a rally in 2009.
"Creigh Deeds and I both have - let's face it - sort of funny names," he said, drawing laughs. "Still trying to figure out the spelling of Creigh."
Obama praised Deeds for working "tirelessly" for the commonwealth as a prosecutor, delegate and state senator.
While he lost two major statewide election bids, Deeds remained involved in his Senate seat and has continued to be a "real force" in the body, said Carl Tobias, professor of law at the University of Richmond.
"I think everybody respects him, sees him as very principled and works hard for the values he believes," Tobias added.
- CNN's Lesa Jansen contributed to this report.