Instead of the usual festive atmosphere, the new session of the New Jersey legislature began Tuesday with a somber mood.
Gov. Chris Christie and tearful lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle paid tribute to Assemblyman Alex DeCroce. The Republican leader collapsed and died at the Statehouse late Monday night, shortly after the end of the previous legislative session.
Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald said DeCroce was a good friend and the reorganization session was a celebration of his life.
“We are exactly where Alex would want us to be because Alex is the one who, in spite of not feeling well yesterday and saying that to a few of us throughout the day, worked to the very end and stood at his post and got his job done and represented the people of this state and families of this state like his own,” Greenwald.
Christie is delaying his State of the State speech until next week because of DeCroce’s sudden death.
The governor said DeCroce was a close family friend and a mentor for almost 20 years.
“He was a valued adviser, an unshakable ally, and a source of all that is good in politics and in public. I had no more loyal friend in Trenton than Alex DeCroce,” Christie said.
Democrats in the Legislature joined their Republican colleagues in remembering DeCroce as a likable and effective politician who served the state until the end.
DeCroce was devoted to his work and was able to get things done without being mean spirited, said Jon Bramnick, Republican conference leader.
“It was the substance of the issue, never personal. That’s what we’ve lost in this state and sometimes in this county, and he proved that you could be nice and still be a leader,” Bramnick said.
The Republicans are not expected to select his replacement as Assembly minority leader until at least next week.