U.S. Rep Sean Casten’s 17-year-old daughter, Gwen Casten, died Monday morning at the family’s Downers Grove home, the congressman’s office and Downers Grove police said.
“This morning, congressman Casten’s beloved daughter, Gwen, passed away,” Casten’s office said in a statement Monday evening. “The Casten family requests privacy, and we will be issuing no further comment during this heartbreaking time.”
Downers Grove police were called to a house in the block where Casten lives just before 7 a.m. Monday “for an unresponsive seventeen year old female,” according to a Police Department statement. “First responders determined that the subject was deceased.”
Casten’s office did not provide any more details about the death.
According to her Twitter bio, Gwen Casten was involved in the March for Our Lives gun control organization. DuPage County board member Dawn DeSart didn’t know Gwen Casten but recently on social media called her a “shero” for organizing a shooting-related first-aid course for her high school classmates.
“She initiated ‘Stop the Bleed’ training in her school, which taught students how to pack a gunshot wound in a fellow student in case of a school shooting,” DeSart told the Tribune. “My heart is breaking for (the Casten family) and for everyone who knew and loved Gwen.”
Ammar Hussain said he interned with Gwen Casten during her father’s 2020 congressional campaign. A high school senior at the time, Hussain said he felt intimidated in the early days until Gwen helped break the ice by creating TikToks with her fellow interns.
“It was amazing how she really wanted to do the right thing, but at the same time she was very lighthearted and had a great attitude,” recalled Hussain, now a junior in college.
Casten is locked in a primary fight that is being watched closely both locally and nationally as he runs against fellow incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Marie Newman in the newly redrawn 6th Congressional District that spans from the Southwest Side of Chicago through the south and west suburbs.
In a statement released Monday night, Newman said, “My heart breaks for the Casten family for the devastating loss of their daughter. My prayers are with Sean, Kara, and the entire Casten family.”
The Newman campaign “is working to cease all comparative paid communications immediately,” according to the statement.
Casten first won his congressional seat in 2018, when he beat six-term Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam for a seat that had been in GOP hands for decades.
Since then, Casten has built a reputation as a climate activist in Congress, while also touting his ability to appeal to more moderate voters in the district. A win by the more progressive Newman could lead to a Republican victory in the fall, Casten has warned.
Newman, meanwhile, defeated conservative Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski in 2020 before seeing Illinois Democrats shift her 3rd Congressional District northward as part of the remap in response to the decennial U.S. Census. Newman found her La Grange home in U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s 4th Congressional District, but she opted to challenge Casten in the nearby 6th instead.
In February 2021, Gwen Casten and her father co-wrote a story for the Downers Grove North High School paper, Omega, reflecting on the events of Jan. 6, 2021. Gwen’s wrote from the “perspective in Downers Grove while receiving updates during school” and her father wrote from the perspective of being at the U.S. Capitol.