Ed Pastor, Arizona’s first Latino congressman, died of a heart attack last night at the age of 75.
Pastor, a Democrat who represented central Phoenix and the southwest Valley for 23 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, was known for working diligently behind the scenes to secure funding for Arizona projects, oftentimes at the request of Republican members of the Arizona delegation who feared political reprisals from their constituents.
When he retired from Congress in 2014, Pastor was the most senior member of the Arizona delegation and served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, something that allowed him to secure funding for local priorities. Among those priorities were federal funding for improvements at Sky Harbor International Airport and Maricopa County’s light rail system.
Former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, a Mesa Republican, told the Arizona Republic today that Pastor made Arizona a better place because he fought to bring spending to the state, something the state’s two U.S. Senators – Jon Kyl and John McCain – wouldn’t do.
“He was the go-to guy on basically everything because our two senators would never ever fight for earmarks,” Salmon said. “So Ed was the go-to guy whenever there was any kind of major Arizona project.”
“He was the consummate fighter for Arizona. If it wasn’t for him, light rail would have never happened. It would have never happened. Ed went to the mat. Before any ground was broken, Ed secured all the seed money. It was over $100 million.”
Before being elected to Congress in a 1991 special election to replace Morris Udall, who resigned because of declining health, Pastor had been on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors since 1977.
Arizonans and others who knew Pastor mourned his death and shared stories about their interactions with him on Twitter and Facebook.
So sorry to learn of the passing of former Rep. Ed Pastor. I had the privilege of serving with Ed for more than a decade. There was no one more capable, hardworking and kind. Arizona is a far better place because of Ed Pastor.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) November 28, 2018
It's hard to imagine an Arizona without Congressman Ed Pastor. He was there for me when I was getting my start in Congress, just like he was there for all of us. Ed never cared about accolades, he just cared about making our state a better place to live. He will be deeply missed. pic.twitter.com/Wp76L80cFJ
— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) November 28, 2018
Yet from what I saw and was told, Ed Pastor was always in charge in these situations, even when there were senior members and Democratic leaders present. They deferred to him on the budget. He had it all in his head, and he had it on lock.
— Robbie Sherwood (@RobbieSherwood) November 28, 2018
I am just heartbroken over the loss of Congressman Ed Pastor. He was a dear friend to my family and he will be truly missed. Prayers to his family and only wish I could have told him one more time how much I appreciated his leadership, guidance and friendship. A Prince of a man
— B3 Strategies (@B3Strategies) November 28, 2018
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) November 28, 2018
Another sad day for Arizona. As we mourn his passing, I can’t help but remember how Ed Pastor was always so kind to me, from the very 1st time I stopped him on the street to introduce myself to the last time I saw him w his wife at Matt’s Big Breakfast. https://t.co/hIjS6GhBPo.
— kristabellerina (@kristabellerina) November 28, 2018
One example: before direct flights from Phx-DCA, I was on an @AmericanAir flight w/ a layover in Dallas. It was a tight connection & when AA staff put Rep. Pastor on a golf cart to get him to the flight, he insisted they wait for others so they could make the flight. Class act.
— Sean Noble (@SeanNobleAZDC) November 28, 2018
For many Latino Arizonans, Pastor was an icon, a mentor and an inspiration.
He was the leader who first inspired me to walk door to door because his first election meant something very special. I’m forever grateful for Congressman Ed Pastor’s leadership and support. My prayers to the Pastor family. No doubt – losing this pioneer leaves a void in Arizona.
— January Contreras (@JanuaryAZ) November 28, 2018
My first congressional job was with Congressman Ed Pastor… Organizing citizenship fairs… Rest in Power, Jefe. pic.twitter.com/z1HoGd625e
— ¡Emily! (@EmilyVerdugo) November 28, 2018
Ed Pastor was my boss, mentor, and my idol. He always led by example. We followed as he taught us to work hard, stay humble and treat all people with dignity and respect no matter our differences. He paved the way for so many of us and we are forever grateful to have known him.
— Charlene Fernandez (@CharleneforAZ) November 28, 2018
Ed Pastor was the first Mexican-American from AZ elected to Congress. For Phoenix Latino/as of my generation, he was a mentor, an advocate, an amigo. Someone to look up to, as well as challenge. Many appealed to him to do more for dreamers. My heart goes out to his familia.❤️ https://t.co/aqMs8mjxkE
— Dianna M. Náñez 🏜 (@DiannaNanez) November 28, 2018