State Sen. Gerald Cardinale died Saturday morning at Pascack Valley Hospital after a brief illness that was not related to COVID-19, according to a spokesperson for the Senate Republican office. He was 86 years old.
A staunch conservative, Cardinale spent 54 years in public service and is New Jersey’s second-longest serving state lawmaker in history. Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff Monday to honor the lawmaker who began his political career in 1967 with his election to the Demarest Board of Education.
Though he was a dentist by profession, Cardinale maintained that his true calling was to social and civic causes. He served just one term in the Assembly before winning a seat in the Senate. He rose to ranking member of both the Senate judiciary and commerce committees, and could always be counted on for a spirited debate.
His legacy includes casino reforms that removed Atlantic City casinos from political and mob influences. Cardinale also co-sponsored measures like Megan’s Law and a number of tax fairness reforms. He was gearing up for reelection to a 13th term at the time of his death.
He is survived by his wife of 62 years, five children and four grandchildren.