Alex DeCroce, the Republican leader of the New Jersey State Assembly, died late Monday night after collapsing in the men's room at the Statehouse. The final day of the legislative session kept lawmakers working late on last-minute bills, and not long after accusing Democrats of casting votes for an absent member, the top GOP assemblyman collapsed around 11 p.m.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has postponed his State of the State address, scheduled for Tuesday, and instead will deliver a speech on the Assembly floor about DeCroce. "Tonight I lost a dear friend, colleague and mentor," Christie said in a statement.
"He helped to give me my start in elective politics in Morris County in 1993," said Christie. "He was one of the most kind, considerate and trustworthy people I have ever had the pleasure to know. This is an enormous loss for our state and for me personally."
DeCroce had been a friend of Christie's for twenty years, and the governor was seen returning to Statehouse last night, "wearing a sport jacket over a T-shirt and loafers but no socks," the AP reports, looking "obviously emotional" and "breaking down" as he embraced DeCroce's colleagues. "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," said Democratic Speaker Sheila Oliver and Assemblyman Louis Greenwald in a joint statement.
DeCroce represented Morris County, New Jersey, for 23 years, and has served as the Republican minority leader since 2003. Fellow Assemblyman Herb Conaway, a doctor, attended to DeCroce on site, but it was too late. The cause of death for the 75-year-old lawmaker was not immediately known.
"What a shocking loss," said a spokesman for Christie. "He was the state's finest elder statesman."