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Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., died Monday morning at the age of 89, his office confirmed to Roll Call.
After struggling for months with his health, Lautenberg — the last World War II veteran in the Senate — died of viral pneumonia. He served from 1982 to 2001, and then again from 2003 to the time of his death. The news of his passing was first reported by the Bergen Record.
Lautenberg’s office put out a statement noting the senator’s accomplishments, including the law that banned smoking on airplanes. Lautenberg also was credited with writing the law that prevents domestic violence perpetrators from owning guns as well as contributing to laws that set the .08 blood alcohol level for drunk drivers and the statute establishing 21 as the drinking age.
After his service in World War II, Lautenberg became wealthy after establishing Automatic Data Processing with two boyhood friends. Though Lautenberg left the business world to run for public office, his staff noted that the company today employs “57,000 people worldwide and 4,500 in New Jersey.”
His office also stated that he is survived by “his wife, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg; six children and their spouses, Ellen Lautenberg and Doug Hendel, Nan and Joe Morgart, Josh and Christina Lautenberg, Lisa and Doug Birer, Danielle Englebardt and Stuart Katzoff, Lara Englebardt Metz and Corey Metz; and 13 grandchildren.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, will have the authority to fill the vacancy left by the Democrat, who had planned on retiring after this term.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. are likely to face off in a competitive Democratic primary for the seat. The state leans heavily Democratic, but the eventual nominee could face an appointed Republican senator in a special election in November.
Kyle Trygstad contributed to this report.