Tributes pour in following death of state Sen. Cardinale

Gov. Phil Murphy on Sunday ordered that the U.S. and New Jersey flags be flown at half-staff at all state buildings and facilities Monday, in recognition of the passing of state Sen. Gerry Cardinale.

Cardinale (R-Cresskill), who served in the New Jersey Legislature longer than any other Republican in state history, died Saturday. He was 86.

Cardinale, who was going to seek reelection to a 13th term, died after a brief illness that was not related to COVID-19.

He had enjoyed a distinguished 54-year political career that began with his election to the Demarest Board of Education in 1967. He served on the board until 1973, including as president in 1969-70. From 1975-1978, he served as mayor of Demarest.

He was elected to the General Assembly in November 1979. Two years later, he earned a spot in the Senate. He had the second-longest Senate term in state history.

Cardinale’s advocacy for women, children and the family was the hallmark of his long and distinguished legislative career, according to an obituary released by the Legislature. Other highlights include:

  • Cardinale co-sponsored Joan’s Law in the late 1990s and subsequently conceived and co-prime sponsored Megan’s Law, establishing the model for other state and national laws.
  • In 2001, Cardinale’s bill requiring parental consent prior to children being subjected to intrusive surveys in public schools became law.
  • In 2002, the senator won his long battle for parental rights regarding sex education with the passage of his Stress Abstinence in Sex Education Bill.
  • More recently, Cardinale’s bill establishing involuntary commitment to outpatient treatment for persons in need of such treatment was passed into law, benefiting the thousands of individuals and families struggling with psychiatric issues.
  • Cardinale also was recognized for his leadership in sponsoring major tort reform overhauls that included limitations on product liability and punitive damages. His Affidavit of Merit requirement in malpractice suits was one of the first in the nation.
  • Cardinale sponsored a series of bills that became law enabling small business and affinity groups to obtain health insurance coverage at favorable rates. HMOs must now allow consumers to have their prescriptions filled at the pharmacy of their choice as a result of his legislation.
  • Cardinale’s tax fairness law for Mutual Money Market Funds allowed back office operations of major stockbrokers and money managers to relocate in New Jersey without punitive tax regulations. The state now has thousands of jobs that, without this legislation, would not be here.

Murphy released the following statement:

“Tammy and I were extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Sen. Gerry Cardinale, a true public servant. Sen. Cardinale’s 54-year record of public service to the state of New Jersey speaks to the level of trust his constituents placed in him. Our condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues in the Legislature. All flags will be lowered to half-staff on Monday when the Senate returns to session.”

Here are just some of the many statements that were released this weekend:

  • Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford): “This is a terribly sad loss for Sen. Cardinale’s family, the people he served in the 39th Legislative District with devotion, and all of us in the Legislature who knew him and respected his commitment to public service. He was a distinctive man who worked tirelessly and with sincere conviction to improve the lives of others. Gerry Cardinale will be missed.”
  • Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield): “Our Senate Republican family is deeply saddened by the passing of our longest-serving member. Gerry, the dean of our caucus, was a trusted voice in the Senate for nearly four decades. Generations of Republicans and Democrats who served alongside him in the Legislature were guided by his sage advice. We are all better legislators for having served with him.”
  • Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa): “A veteran leader and distinguished statesman, Gerry dedicated a lifetime of service advocating for his constituents and bettering his community. I was always impressed with his preparedness and knowledge. Gerry dove into complicated issues and legislation. He was not just a fighter for the residents of the 39th Legislative District, but for all of New Jersey.”
  • Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge): “Gerry was a well-respected legislator for over four decades. He was known for his diplomacy, tact, passion and integrity. He will be greatly missed. His passing is a loss for the Legislature, his constituents and, most importantly, his family.”
  • Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union): “Sen. Cardinale was a force in the Republican Party and the state Legislature. With more than five decades of distinguished public service, he leaves a lasting mark on the state.”