Former Rep. John Stephen “Steve” Horn (R-Calif.) passed away peacefully at his home in Long Beach on Thursday. He was 79 and had Alzheimer’s disease.
Horn served in the House from 1993 to 2003, representing the Long Beach area, California’s 38th district. His was the most Democratic district in the state to elect a Republican.
The author of three books on Congress, a former political science professor and former president of California State University, Long Beach, Horn would often sneak over to the Library of Congress while he was a Member for respite during the workday.
“His staff would lose him because he wouldn’t take his BlackBerry or anything like that,” said Rep. David Dreier, leader of the California Republican delegation, who served alongside Horn. “He’d just be amongst the shelves there.”
“He was a very interesting and unique guy,” Dreier said. “He was extraordinarily dedicated and studious — not your typical Member of Congress. He never sought the limelight, and he was extremely conscientious.”
Although he was a passionate Republican, Horn was also a “bipartisan problem solver,” Dreier said. He often broke with the party line, notably splitting with Republicans to vote against oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and to support abortion rights.
Horn chaired what was then called the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology from 1995 to 2002, working to clean up the financial practices of the federal government.
During his five terms, Horn sponsored at least 60 bills and co-sponsored more than 1,100. He primarily focused his efforts on balancing the budget and reforming campaign finance. He also created and led several bipartisan coalitions to secure funding for the C-17 Airlift program, the Alameda Corridor and several major projects at California colleges. He also worked to expand the Freedom of Information Act to cover electronic information.
From 1997 to 2002, Horn also served as co-chairman of the Congressional Arts Caucus, a 185-member bipartisan group that supports the arts through federal initiatives. He played a major role in saving the National Endowment for the Arts after the agency’s funding was slashed and it was targeted for elimination.
Horn first ran for Congress in 1988 but lost his primary to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. After reapportionment in 1991, however, Horn ran again to succeed Rep. Glenn Anderson (D). After narrowly winning an eight-way Republican primary, Horn went on to win the seat and four more terms.
Instead of running large-scale media campaigns, Horn would host inexpensive pot-luck dinners in backyards around his district.
“He was loved and revered by Democrats and Republicans alike,” Dreier said. “He was a thoughtful guy who was very reasonable. ... He was a very, very decent, hardworking and nice person.”
In 2001, when his district was eliminated, Horn announced his retirement from Congress and served out his final term.