Monday, June 3, 2013

U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, an environmental champion from New Jersey, dies in fifth term, at 89

The ever-combative Frank Lautenberg, who fought big business, stomach cancer, New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, and sometimes his Democratic colleagues as well, succumbed this morning to complications from pneumonia.

Obituaries and reactions from political figures started hitting the Internet a short while after the announcement and will continue to mount in the days ahead.

Here is a sampling of the early reactions.

New York Times 
Frank R. Lautenberg, who fought the alcohol and tobacco industries and promoted Amtrak as a five-term United States senator from New Jersey, died on Monday morning in Manhattan. He was 89.  His death leaves a vacancy in the Senate that will be filled by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican. If he appoints a Republican, as expected, his party will hold 46 Senate seats while the Democrats’ number will drop to 52. Two independents caucus with the Democrats. Mr. Lautenberg was the Senate’s last surviving veteran of World War II.

First elected in 1982 at age 58 after a successful business career, Mr. Lautenberg served three terms, retired and instantly regretted the decision. When Senator Robert G. Torricelli made a last-minute decision not to seek re-election in 2002, Mr. Lautenberg ran in his place and won the seat. He was re-elected in 2008.
Never a flashy senator — his colleagues Bill Bradley and Mr. Torricelli got more attention — Mr. Lautenberg acquired influence on the Appropriations Committee and had a consistently liberal voting record. Americans for Democratic Action said he had voted liberal 94 percent of the time.

Bergen Record - Politics 
Environmental regulation and transportation were centerpieces of the five-term liberal's political career, which began when the co-founder of payroll-processing giant Automatic Data Processing won an open Senate seat in 1982. “There was no greater champion for protecting children from toxic chemicals than Senator Frank Lautenberg," said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters. “There was no greater champion for protecting children from toxic chemicals than Senator Frank Lautenberg."

A fierce partisan, Lautenberg also worked with Republicans when there were shared New Jersey interests at stake. "I often looked to partnering with Senator Lautenberg on critical issues for our state, whether it was fighting to keep the [Federal Aviation Administration] Technical Center and the Coast Guard Training Center in South Jersey or protecting beach projects vital to our coastal communities," said Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-Ventnor. "I was proud to call Frank Lautenberg a friend.

Bergen Record - Sports 

Lautenberg was a Patersonian and the son of impoverished eastern European immigrants. But Lautenberg managed to attend Seton Hall and Columbia, getting a degree in economics in the latter. Then in the early 1950s, Lautenberg teamed up with a pair of brothers who also were from Paterson – Henry and Joseph Taub, who later became two of the “Secaucus Seven” who owned the New Jersey Nets for 20 years until the late 1990s. The Taubs founded a company that you may know today as the multi-billion dollar payroll firm Automatic Data Processing.

But in the fledgling days, the Taubs needed a good salesman to promote the product. That man was Lautenberg.
The company’s sales volume quickly exploded, making the Taubs and Lautenberg quite wealthy. As The Record’s story notes, a $90,000 contribution to George McGovern’s Presidential campaign – a huge sum in those days – landed Lautenberg on President Nixon’s enemies list.

Lautenberg also attended Eastside High School with another gentleman who would achieve memorable success – Larry Doby, the first African-American player in American League baseball history in 1947, just months after Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League.
When Doby passed away 10 years ago this month, his friend Lautenberg recalled that Doby “just wanted to play baseball” more than being a pioneer. Yet Doby also became the second African-American major league manager in 1978.

National Journal 
Lautenberg had frosty relationships with other Garden State Democrats. Earlier this year he publicly rebuked Booker for signaling that he would run for the Senate before Lautenberg had decided whether to retire. "He's got a lot of work to do—a lot of work that should have been done and hasn't been done," Lautenberg told National Journal earlier this year. Lautenberg later announced he would retire.
A clash between Lautenberg and Torricelli at a Democratic caucus meeting spilled into the headlines in 1999 over Torricelli's indirect support for a possible campaign by Republican Christine Todd Whitman. Democrats who witnessed the exchange were "stunned," reported the Philadelphia Inquirer. Torricelli directed profanity toward Lautenberg, and their relationship never recovered, according to reports. So in 2002, when Torricelli became the subject of an ethics investigation and state Democrats sought a candidate to replace him on the ballot, Lautenberg put his name forward, and went on to defeat Republican Doug Forrester.
Lautenberg also campaigned aggressively against Rep. Rob Andrews in the Democratic primary in 2008, dismissing claims that he was too old to serve and hitting Andrews for supporting the Iraq war. Lautenberg won handily, 59 percent to 35 percent.
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As the longest-serving senator in New Jersey, with a career spanning some 30 years, Lautenberg was the oldest member of the Senate. He had been struggling with health issues for months, citing flu and bronchitis.Lautenberg announced in February that he would not seek a sixth term in 2014, and said he would instead focus on “a two-year mission to pass new gun safety laws, protect children from toxic chemicals and create more opportunities for working families in New Jersey.” In recent months, he worked to pass a ban on assault weapons and high- capacity magazines in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. He also forged a bipartisan bill addressing regulation of chemicals used on household products.

NJ Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Barbara Buono
“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Frank Lautenberg. Senator Lautenberg exemplified the American spirit and his commitment and devotion to the country he loved was unmatched. He always answered the call to serve – first as a soldier in the United States Army during World War II and later as Senator in the United States Senate representing the people of New Jersey. Senator Lautenberg always stood up for the principles he believed in and fought everyday to improve the lives of everyday New Jerseyans. Frank Lautenberg was an American hero and an icon in New Jersey, and he will be sorely missed. My thoughts and prayers are with the Lautenberg family during this difficult time.”

NJ Gov. Chris Christie

"It’s no mystery that Senator Lautenberg and I didn’t always agree. In fact, it probably is more honest to say we very often didn’t agree, and we had some pretty good fights between us over time – battles on philosophy and the role of government, but never was Senator Lautenberg to be underestimated as an advocate for the causes that he believed in and as an adversary in the political world.

"I think the best way to describe Frank Lautenberg in the way he would probably want to be described to all of you today is as a fighter. Senator Lautenberg fought for the things he believed in and sometimes he just fought because he liked to.  He always reminded me that he was a kid from Paterson whose father died at a very young age, who served in the military and served his country, and then built a business which he was extraordinarily proud of, just as proud of his time at ADP as he was of his many years, nearly thirty years, in the United States Senate, and so today is a sad day for the people of New Jersey.

NY/NJ Baykeeper
We are feeling the loss of Senator Lautenberg who was always a champion of the environment and took Baykeeper's fight for clean water in the NY/NJ Harbor very seriously. We will miss a dear ally and statesman.

NJ Audubon
Today NJ lost a tremendous environmental champion and advocate with the passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg. Our condolences go out to his family and many friends. We remember and will honor him by working to carry on his legacy of preservation, vital conservation initiatives, protection of our natural resources and love of birds and all wildlife.

NJ Sierra Club
The New Jersey Sierra Club is deeply saddened to hear about the loss of Senator Lautenberg. Our prayers and wishes go out to his family during this hard time. The death of Senator Lautenberg is a tremendous loss to the people of New Jersey and the United States. Whenever you travel around New Jersey Senator Lautenberg has not only worked to make our air cleaner and our water safer, but when you see a superfund site being cleaned, a clean beach or important open spaces like the Wallkill Wildlife Refuge that is Frank Lautenberg’s legacy.

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