Gov. Chris Christie has eulogized a legislative leader instead of delivering his annual State of the State address during an appearance before a joint session of the Legislature.

Christie appeared before the Legislature on Tuesday, a day after Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce  collapsed and died at the Statehouse on the last day of the 214th session.

He told lawmakers the Republican leader died “doing what he loved, serving the people of New Jersey” but that “does not lessen the pain.”

The Assembly observed a moment of silence for DeCroce as the lawmakers were sworn in earlier Tuesday for a new term. Bagpipes played before the ceremony as a bouquet of flowers sat on the late legislator’s empty desk.

DeCroce, 75, died after a busy night of voting that closed out the 214th legislative session. Assemblyman Herb Conaway, the Legislature’s only physician, said DeCroce had complained during the day of arm pain and feeling ill. He said he and state troopers tried unsuccessfully to revive the Morris County  lawmaker, administering CPR.

“He served admirably for many years and he will certainly be missed,” Conaway said.


“Tonight I lost a dear friend, colleague and mentor -– Assembly Republican Leader Alex De Croce,” Governor Chris Christie said in a prepared statement.  “I have known Alex for nearly 20 years,” the governor said. “He helped to give me my start in elective politics in Morris County in 1993. This is an enormous loss for our state and for me personally.”


DeCroce, of Parsippany-Troy Hills, served in the Assembly since 1989 and became the GOP’s leader there in 2003. His district includes parts of Morris and Passaic counties.

AcDeCroce was born in Morristown in 1936 and graduated from Boonton High School before attending Seton Hall. DeCroce was selected to fill a vacancy and sworn in to his Assembly seat 1989. He was elected to his first full term in November of that year.

The Bergen Record says DeCroce attended Seton Hall University and worked as a realtor for ERA Gallo & DeCroce, his website said. Among the committees he was recently serving on were the Bipartisan Leadership Committee, where he served as the co-chairman, and the Legislative Services Commission.

DeCroce was a Morris County Freeholder from 1984 to 1989 and served on both the Morris County Tax Board and Board of Elections, according to his legislative biography. He was also the chairman of the County College of Morris Board of Trustees.

Among his achievements, DeCroce sponsored a law that renewed the state Transportation Trust Fund, dedicated motor fuels tax for transportation projects, and amended the state Constitution to protect and strengthen the rights of crime victims, his biography said.

DeCroce was a trustee of the Craftsman Farms Foundation, a member of Rotary International, and an honorary board member of the New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center. He was also a member of several Chambers of Commerce.

The Associated Press, Kevin McArdle, Dino Flammia & Dan Alexander all contributed to this report.

Watch live streaming video from governorchrischristie at