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Former New Jersey Democrat Gov. James Florio has died at the age of 85.
Florio, who also served in the U.S. House of Representatives, was praised by his law partner Doug Steinhardt and current New Jersey Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy.
“Governor Florio was a fighter who never backed down. He was a leader who cared more about the future of New Jersey than his own political fortunes,” Murphy said in a statement.
“A Democrat, he made three unsuccessful runs for the governor before finally succeeding in 1989, when he defeated Republican Jim Courter and became the first Italian-American to serve as the state’s chief executive,” MSN reported.
“Florio drew sharp criticism in 1990 when he pushed a $2.8 billion tax increase through the state Legislature that extended a sales tax to, among other things, toilet paper. It spawned massive voter resentment and spurred the formation of Hands Across New Jersey, an anti-tax grassroots group that used rolls of toilet paper as its symbol,” the report added.
Florio was ousted after one term by Republican Christie Whitman.
“Before becoming governor, Florio served four years in the state Assembly and 15 years in the House of Representatives. In 2000, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, losing to investment banker Jon Corzine in one of the most expensive Senate primaries in history. Corzine went on to win the Senate seat that year and held it until he won the governor’s office in 2005,” the MSN report added.
Former NJ governor and U.S. representative James Florio dies at 85 https://t.co/VrF6buOYz1
— CNBC (@CNBC) September 26, 2022
Many weighed in on social media to the news of Florio’s passing.
“We’re saddened to learn of the passing of former N.J. Gov. & Congressman James Florio. The UCI presented its 2018 Champion of the Ocean Award to Florio for his dedication to the environment and ocean during a life of public service that extended well after his time in office,” the Urban Coast Institute tweeted.
“Among his achievements, Florio authored the Superfund Program and was instrumental in the passage of the Medical Waste Tracking Act as a congressman. As gov. he strengthened penalties for industrial water polluters & permanently ended the practice of ocean dumping of sewage sludge,” the group added.
Former Gov. Jim McGreevey tweeted blessings toward Florio.
“Governor Florio was such a good man, mentor, and friend,” McGreevey said. “May he rest in peace.”
“Governor Florio was a good man, an inspiring leader, and a picture of perseverance. He had a lot of big wins, some tough losses, and always bounced back always to help New Jersey be even better. Jim was my good friend. The whole state is poorer without him today,” Democrat Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. tweeted.
Governor Florio was a good man, an inspiring leader, and a picture of perseverance. He had a lot of big wins, some tough losses, and always bounced back always to help New Jersey be even better. Jim was my good friend. The whole state is poorer without him today. https://t.co/k3112B6Spo
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. 🇺🇸🇺🇦 (@BillPascrell) September 26, 2022
Democrat Rep. Donald Norcross, who holds Florio’s former congressional seat, called the late governor one of New Jersey’s greatest champions.
“He was a dedicated public servant who cared deeply for our great state and its people,” Norcross said in a statement. “He was a true environmentalist, a trailblazer long before it was popular to do so.”
New Jersey Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez hailed Florio’s legislative record and efforts he supported to help the people of the state.
“His work on issues ranging from education, transportation, and the environment have had meaningful impacts on families and communities across the nation,” Menendez said in a statement.
State Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin lauded Florio’s courage and commitment to environmental issues in a statement.
“Whether permanently protecting the Pinelands, driving down auto insurance rates, or enacting stricter gun safety laws, Governor Florio’s legislative record left an indelible mark on New Jerseyans,” Coughlin said.