Former Democratic New Jersey congressman and Gov. James Florio dead at age 85

A once prominent former elected Democratic official from New Jersey is now being honored by the state after his recent death.

James Florio, who previously served as a member of Congress and as the governor of New Jersey, was 85 years old when he passed, the Conservative Brief reported.

Current New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) praised the life and political achievements of his gubernatorial predecessor and ordered all flags in the state to be flown at half-staff in his honor.

Navy veteran, attorney, and politician

Florio had been born in Brooklyn, New York, but, following a stint in the U.S. Navy in the 1950s, attended college in New Jersey and eventually graduated from Rutgers School of Law in 1967, according to the Associated Press.

He soon thereafter entered a lengthy political career in New Jersey, first at the county and state levels, then later in Congress and the governor’s office.

Florio proved to be a rather unpopular governor and was ousted by voters after only one term, and was later rejected again during a failed bid to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

Lengthy political career in New Jersey

According to the New Jersey Globe, Florio had been a fixture in the state’s politics since 1969, when he first won a seat in the state legislature, though he didn’t stay in the State Assembly for long. In 1974, he won election to Congress and went on to be re-elected several times and serve eight terms as a U.S. representative, even as he launched unsuccessful gubernatorial campaigns during his 15-year tenure in Congress.

It was on Florio’s third run for governor in 1989 that he finally won that office he had been seeking, but his policy priorities didn’t go over well with the majority of New Jersey voters and he was voted out of office in favor of Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) in 1993.

Those unpopular policies included a $2.8 billion tax hike, the imposition of strict gun control laws, including a ban on so-called “assault weapons,” and devout environmentalism, among other things. Despite his unpopularity while in office, however, Florio continued to remain involved in politics until the end and helped influence younger Democrats in the state.

Condolences and honors offered

“Governor Florio was a fighter who never backed down,” Gov. Murphy said in a statement. “He was a leader who cared more about the future of New Jersey than his own political fortunes. And he was also a friend whose kind counsel was invaluable to me and countless others across our state.”

“Our communities are cleaner today because of the environmental efforts he championed in Congress. And our streets are safer today because of his dogged effort to enact and defend our state’s assault-weapons ban, which remains the law to this day,” he continued. “More than anything, Governor Florio showed that legacies are built by doing the right things.”

Murphy added, “Tammy and I send our heartfelt thoughts to Lucinda, Jim’s children, and all who loved him. Our state has lost a good man, and later this morning I will sign an executive order directing our flags to fly at half-staff in his honor.”

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