Former Rep. Ed Pastor Dies at Age 75

Was the first Hispanic member elected from Arizona and a longtime appropriator

Then-Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., speaks during a news conference to announce efforts to rename room HVC 215 after slain congressional staff member Gabe Zimmerman in July 2011. (Bill Clark/Roll Call file photo)

Former Rep. Ed Pastor, the first Hispanic from Arizona to serve in the U.S. House, has died. He was 75.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called Pastor “an Arizona trailblazer and true public servant” in announcing his passing on Wednesday. The longtime Democratic member of the House Appropriations Committee served for more than two decades in the House. He succeeded Rep. Morris K. Udall, who had resigned his seat in 1991 while battling Parkinson’s disease.

Pastor was never the most visible member of the House, but the Progressive Caucus member was quite an effective appropriator, eventually becoming cardinal of the Transportation-HUD subcommittee. He had been the interim leader of the Democrats on the Energy-Water subcommittee when Rep. Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana fell under ethical scrutiny.

The oldest son of a copper miner, Pastor grew up in a working-class household about 85 miles east of Phoenix.

Rep. Ed Pastor took part in a mock swearing-in led by Speaker Tom Floey, D-Wash., after winning a 1991 special election. (Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Pastor took part in a mock swearing-in led by Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash., after winning a 1991 special election. (Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Many of his peers were destined for jobs in the mines, but “both my parents were very determined that they were going to see their kids educated and get out of a mining town,” he said in an interview with CQ Roll Call before his 2015 retirement from Congress. “My dad was a sucker for every encyclopedia salesman because he wanted his kids to have everything to read.”

His father pushed him to deliver newspapers so that he could qualify for a college scholarship sponsored by the The Arizona Republic. Through high school, he delivered papers, while also lettering in football and baseball and being elected senior class president.

He went to Arizona State University on a scholarship — he was the first member of his family to attend college — and worked in the mines during the summers to help pay expenses.

After graduating with a degree in chemistry and a teaching certificate, Pastor taught high school and worked nights helping adults learn to read and write. He got involved with a nonprofit group, The Guadalupe Organization Inc., and eventually became its deputy director.

During that time, Pastor got interested in the Chicano movement and its charismatic leader, Cesar Chavez. Believing that Mexican-Americans needed more decisive political leadership, he started volunteering for the campaigns of Mexican-American candidates in south Phoenix. He also went to law school.

After working for the successful gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Raul Castro in 1974, he became one of the governor’s aides. Pastor was elected to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in 1976.

Just two days after Udall resigned from the House in May 1991, Pastor quit his post on the board of supervisors to campaign for the seat. “I said, the hell with it, let’s go,” he said.

In the five-person special primary, he prevailed by 5 points over the mayor of Tucson. His 11-point victory in the special election over a Yuma County supervisor was the closest House election he ever faced.

— Excerpted in part from CQ’s “Politics in America”Watch: Jackie Speier Hears Newly Uncovered Jonestown Tape For the First Time

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.