Sunday, May 19, 2024

Ed Pastor, Arizona’s 1st Latino congressman dies

Former U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, who championed liberal causes as Arizona’s first Latino member of Congress but was known for his bipartisanship, died after suffering a heart attack, his family said Wednesday. He was 75.

Pastor, a Democrat, served 23 years in Congress until deciding in 2014 against running for re-election. Pastor won a 1991 special election for the House seat vacated by fellow Democrat Morris K. Udall and was re-elected 11 times.

Ronnie Lopez, a lifelong friend and finance chairman of all of Pastor’s congressional campaigns, said he suffered a heart attack Tuesday night while dining at a Phoenix restaurant with his wife, Verma. He died at a local hospital.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, called Pastor “an Arizona trailblazer and true public servant” and ordered that flags be lowered statewide to half-staff. “He didn’t care if you were a Democrat or independent, Republican, rich or poor. If he could help you, he would,” Lopez said. “You can see his footprint throughout this state and this community.”

Pastor was born in Claypool, Ariz., a small mining town about 100 miles east of Phoenix, where his father worked in the copper mines. He was the first in his family to graduate from college, earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Arizona State.

Longtime Republican consultant Chuck Coughlin said people from both parties knew to go to Pastor. “Ed was the guy, whether you were a Democrat or a Republican in Arizona, you could go to and ask him to help you,” Coughlin said. “He would always try and help people regardless of your political affiliation. That’s why I loved him — you’d call, and he would always say, ‘What can I do for you?’”