One of North Carolina's most powerful contemporary political leaders has died. Former state Sen. Marc Basnight served a record 18 years as Senate leader. A family spokesperson said the Democrat died Monday afternoon at his home near the North Carolina barrier islands called the Outer Banks. He had been ill for years with what was later diagnosed as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. His nine terms as Senate president pro tempore through 2010 made him the longest-serving head of a legislative body in North Carolina history. Gov. Roy Cooper served with Basnight in the Senate. Cooper called him a “giant” in North Carolina.