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Christie, NJ Lawmakers Mourn Death Of Assembly’s GOP Leader Alex DeCroce

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Assemblyman Alex DeCroce (credit: CBS 2)

Assemblyman Alex DeCroce (credit: CBS 2)

TRENTON, NJ (CBSNewYork) – New Jersey lawmakers returned to Trenton on Tuesday following the death of their longtime colleague, Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, who collapsed late Monday night following the end of a marathon legislative session.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ John Montone reports 

Before a joint session of the new Legislature, Gov. Chris Christie, who was scheduled to deliver his state of the state address, instead eulogized his friend and mentor. The governor spoke during what’s normally a joyful, optimistic event — the swearing-in of a new Legislature and the start of a new lawmaking session.

But the statehouse in Trenton was filled with grief, as rounds of applause gave way to moments of silence, CBS 2′s Dana Tyler reported.

“For me, Alex was a close family friend and a mentor for almost 20 years… he helped me my start in elective office, as a Freeholder in Morris County back in 1994,” Christie said. “He fought the good fight on this floor, right to the very end of his life,” Christie said. “That’s so often said metaphorically of people in this business, but those of you who were here on this floor last night, you know that it was literally true about Alex.”

WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman In Trenton

DeCroce, the Assembly Minority Leader, died in a bathroom at the Statehouse around 11 p.m. Monday.

The 75-year-old assemblyman was known not only as a tireless leader for the people of New Jersey, but as a kind, trustworthy and considerate person.

“Somehow standing it here it seems fitting that we should honor Alex in the chamber where he spent so much of his life. The chamber which he was so dedicated to and in which he accomplished so much,” Christie said. “He loved this chamber and he loved all of you. He loved the people of New Jersey and we loved him back.”

A simple bouquet of flowers sat at DeCroce’s empty desk — his wife and children dabbed at tears while listening to tributes from political friends and foes, Tyler reported.

“We’ve had difficult times in this chamber, but perhaps none more difficult than today,” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.

“You really had to know him to understand him, but he was a very, very quiet, nice,” said friend Sandy Epstein. “He was in real estate for a long time.”

DeCroce joined the State Assembly in 1989 and had been the Republican minority leader since 2003. His office was based in Whippany.

Just last month, he addressed Democrats about coming together on an agenda.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports

“We have important work to get done and I call upon the speaker to work with us to finish the important work sent to do before the clock runs out on this session,” he said.

WCBS 880′s Sean Adams In DeCroce’s Hometown – Parsippany

Christie said he considered DeCroce a mentor and as the person who helped him get started in politics.

It’s unclear what exactly caused his death, but sources say at this point, it appears he died of natural causes.

Christie said he will deliver his State of the State address sometime next week.

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