Ed Pastor, a lawyer and liberal Democrat who became Arizona’s first Hispanic member of Congress when he was elected in 1991, beginning a 23-year career in the House of Representatives, has died in Phoenix. He was 75.
His family announced the death on Wednesday morning. Ronnie Lopez, a friend and former finance chairman of Mr. Pastor’s congressional campaigns, said Mr. Pastor had a heart attack on Tuesday night while dining at a Phoenix restaurant with his wife of 53 years, Verma Pastor. He was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center and died there.
Mr. Pastor went to Congress after winning a special election in 1991 to fill the House seat vacated by Morris K. Udall, a fellow Democrat who had retired after 15 terms, debilitated by Parkinson’s disease. (He died at 76 in 1998.)
In a solidly Democratic and Hispanic-majority district, which includes downtown Phoenix, Mr. Pastor was re-elected 11 times. In 2012, he received 81.2 percent of the vote.
In Congress he championed the North American Free Trade Agreement, immigration and education reforms, and universal health care. In 1993 he introduced a resolution “expressing the sense of Congress that access to basic health care services is a fundamental human right.” The resolution never moved out of committee.
For many years he was a chief deputy whip for House Democrats, and for a time he was chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He variously served on the Appropriations, House Oversight, Agriculture, Small Business, and Education and Labor Committees, as well as the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
He retired at the end of the 113th Congress, in early 2015.
While voting with Democrats more than 90 percent of the time, Mr. Pastor earned a reputation for bipartisanship. “There was no one more capable, hardworking and kind,” Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican and former House member, said on Twitter.
Edward López Pastor, the oldest of three children, was born on June 28, 1943, to Enrique and Margarita Pastor. He grew up in the copper-mining town of Claypool, Ariz., about 100 miles east of Phoenix, and attended public schools. His father was a miner.
The first in his family to go to college, Mr. Pastor received a scholarship to Arizona State University in Tempe and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1966. After teaching high school and working as deputy director of a community nonprofit, the Guadalupe Organization, as well as the Maricopa Legal Aid Society, he enrolled at Arizona State University College of Law in Tempe, receiving his law degree in 1974.
He then joined the staff of Arizona’s first Hispanic governor, Raul Héctor Castro, working on civil rights issues. He won election to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in 1976.
He married Verma Mendez. Besides his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Yvonne and Laura Pastor; a sister, Eleanor; and four grandchildren. Laura Pastor is a member of the Phoenix City Council.
Mr. Lopez said Mr. Pastor was loved in the Phoenix area. “Schools, courthouses, bridges and parks are named after him,” he said.
“He wasn’t a show horse,” Mr. Lopez said. “He didn’t demand the limelight. He was just a workhorse, and he got things done for folks.”
The New York Times contributed reporting.
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