Frank Lautenberg, Democrat Senator from New Jersey and a Paterson native, has died at the age of 89.
The oldest member of the Senate, Lautenberg also was the longest-serving Senator in the history of New Jersey. Lautenberg missed several weeks of votes in 2012 due to declining health.
Lautenberg's Senate career began in 1982, when he defated Millicent Fenwick to win the seat. After retiring from the Senate in 2000, Lautenberg stepped in late in the 2002 Senate race after incumbent Robert Torricelli stepped down just five weeks before the election due to accusations of ethics violations related to Torricelli's acceptance of illegal campaign donations in 1996. Despite entering the race so late, Lautenberg handily defeated Republican challenger Doug Forrester by 10 percentage points, enabling the Democrats to retain the seat.
Lautenberg won re-election in 2008, but had announced that he would not seek re-election in the next Senate election in 2014. Now, the appointment of a Senator to the vacated post will be up to Governor Chris Christie, a Republican.
“New Jersey has lost one of its strongest and most accomplished leaders," said State Senator Richard Codey, also a former governor of New Jersey. "Frank Lautenberg was a man of principled determination who never backed down from fighting for what was right. From the battlefields of the Second World War to the halls of the United States Senate, he served the country and the people of New Jersey with selfless honor and distinction.
“He was passionate in his beliefs and compassionate in his commitment to those in need. He fought for working people and he stood up for the disenfranchised and he was a leader on issues of importance, from anti-smoking and drunk driving laws to domestic abuse, gun safety and the 21st Century G.I. Bill of Rights.
“We are a better country, a better state and a better people because of his service.”
"New Jersey has lost one of its most dedicated public servants," said New Jersey Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). "Senator Lautenberg rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most important political figures in the state, never backing away from a fight when the cause demanded it.
"His commitment to New Jersey and its people was commendable," Green said. "He was an example to us all and will be missed. My sincerest condolences to his family during this difficult time. I hope they will find solace in knowing that he leaves behind a remarkable legacy that helped make New Jersey what it is today."
"Senator Frank Lautenberg will always be remembered as a dedicated public servant and a tenacious fighter for New Jersey," said Republican Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ-07). "A proud Veteran of World War II, he was New Jersey's longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate. My wife Heidi and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Lautenberg family during this difficult time. May Senator Lautenberg rest in peace."
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat who has been mentioned as a possible Senatorial candidate in 2014, praised Lautenberg's lifetime of contributions.
"Today, the American people lost a true champion. For three decades, Senator Frank Lautenberg worked to make America a stronger, healthier and safer place to live," Booker said. "His legacy will endure for generations. Senator Lautenberg was a model of leadership and service to me since before I even considered entering elected office. He was a passionate advocate for New Jersey and a crucial and tireless partner who always delivered for the people of Newark. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Lautenberg family."
"Senator Lautenberg’s passion for public service and his commitment to making life better for everyone have inspired so many of us." said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman. "From his service in WWII to his extraordinary tenure as our U.S. Senator, he exemplified everything that is great about this country. He was my friend, and I will miss him."
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., said, "The passing of Senator Frank A. Lautenberg silences a voice committed to serving the people of this nation, and in particular, the people of New Jersey. He fought hard for his beliefs, always willing to speak out in pursuit of legislation that would improve the lives of his constituents."