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Former New Jersey Rep. Herb Klein dies at 93

One-term congressman and lawyer served on Rutgers board

Rep. Herb Klein, D-N.J. poses for a portrait on Sept. 13, 1993.
Rep. Herb Klein, D-N.J. poses for a portrait on Sept. 13, 1993. (Chris Martin/CQ Roll Call)

North Jersey political power broker Herbert C. Klein died last Friday at the age of 93.

Fellow Democrats spent the weekend eulogizing the former representative, who served one term in Congress in the early 1990s. 

“Congressman Herb Klein was my predecessor, a superb public servant, a brilliant lawyer, and Passaic County’s best advocate,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I will miss his wisdom, his counsel, and most of all his friendship.”

Another Garden State lawmaker, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, released a statement saying, “North Jersey lost one of our best.”

“I am also grateful for his strong voice on behalf of Jersey families, the Jewish community, and the Passaic County Democratic Party,” Gottheimer wrote. “May his memory be a blessing.”

Klein digs into his meal at a pasta luncheon on Sept. 28, 1993. (Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call)

Gov. Phil Murphy issued a statement with his wife, Tammy — who recently announced her plans to challenge Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. — calling Klein “our dear friend.”

“From his service to our country in the U.S. Air Force to his tenure as Chairman of the Assembly Democratic Caucus to his time in Congress, Herb was a dedicated public servant who always put his constituents first,” the Murphys wrote. “Our hearts go out to his family, his wide circle of friends, and all who knew him. He will be sorely missed.”

Rep. Andy Kim is also running in the primary against Menendez, whom federal prosecutors have charged with a number of offenses related to bribery allegations.

During his brief tenure in Congress, Klein served on the House Banking and Science committees. His largest legislative achievement was arguably helping to write the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994, which relaxed laws governing interstate banking.

Born in Newark, N.J., Klein graduated from Rutgers University in 1950 and Harvard Law School three years later. He passed the bar and then served two years in the Air Force before going on to get an LLM from New York University. After a successful legal career, he turned to politics, winning a seat in 1971 to the New Jersey General Assembly, where he wrote the law creating the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

He lost reelection in 1975 in a bad year for Democrats but remained active in public affairs. When longtime Rep. Robert Roe, D-N.J., retired from Congress in 1992, Klein emerged on top of the primary field to replace him and then edged out the GOP’s candidate.

A midterm wave once again swept Klein out of office two years later, when Republicans gained more than 50 House seats during President Bill Clinton’s first term. Republican Bill Martini beat Klein by fewer than 2,000 votes before losing his own reelection attempt two years later against Pascrell.

Klein, a proud Rutgers alumnus, served on the university’s board of trustees for a number of years and made a $5 million donation in 2020 to create a research center dedicated to treating dementia. His wife, Jacqueline, died in 2017 after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease. 

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