New Jersey (STONJ1) Governor Chris Christie postponed his annual State of the State address today, following the death last night of Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, the highest-ranking Republican in the lower house.
Christie will put off the planned speech to a joint session of the Legislature and intends to give remarks on DeCroce’s passing, said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the governor. Christie is legally obligated to make the address and will do so at a later date, Drewniak said.
The last time the speech was postponed was in 1996 by Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman due to weather.
“This has just supplanted the State of the State,” Drewniak said in a telephone interview. “Obviously, this is done out of respect.”
DeCroce, who represented Parsippany, collapsed and died last night in a Statehouse men’s room moments after the Legislature held its final voting session of the year, State Police Captain Frank Davis said. He was 75.
The lawmaker had served in the Assembly since 1989 and assumed the leadership post in 2003. State troopers responding to reports of an unconscious man in a first-floor restroom about 11:20 found DeCroce slumped over, without a pulse and not breathing, Davis said.
After troopers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and used an external defibrillator, Assemblyman Herb Conaway, a Democrat and physician who had served with DeCroce since 1998, pronounced him dead at 11:30 p.m. local time, Davis said. He declined to speculate on the cause of death.
Christie, a 49-year-old Republican, called the lawmaker’s passing “an enormous loss for our state.” He plans to speak at 1 p.m. in the Assembly chambers in Trenton, Drewniak said.
“Tonight I lost a dear friend, colleague and mentor,” Christie said in an e-mailed statement. “He was an enormously accomplished legislator and a tremendous servant to the people of New Jersey.”
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver also canceled a planned reorganization meeting of the Assembly today, Tom Hester, her spokesman, said in an e-mail. Oliver and Majority Leader-Elect Louis Greenwald commented on DeCroce’s death in a statement on the Assembly’s website.
“Alex DeCroce was a friend, colleague and leader,” Oliver, a Democrat from East Orange, said in a joint statement with Majority Leader Louis Greenwald. “He was always someone ready with a handshake and a laugh, no matter the circumstance, and his devotion to the people of New Jersey was unwavering. The Assembly has lost one of its great institutions.”
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