Courtesy of CT House Dems

Two weeks ago, lawmakers were stunned by the news of Rep. Ezequiel Santiago’s, D-Bridgeport, sudden passing.

Santiago — who represented the 130th district, encompassing the south end of Bridgeport, for a decade — died of a heart attack on March 14 at age 45. He was first sworn in to the Connecticut General Assembly in 2009. Santiago most recently served as co-chair of the Banking Committee and as deputy majority whip for the House Democrats. In November, he was chosen to lead the eight-person Bridgeport delegation.

“First and foremost, Ezequiel was a team player,” Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, told the News. “He worked really hard for working families and to raise Bridgeport’s voice as an economic driver of the state.”

Born in New Jersey in 1973, Santiago grew up in Bridgeport. After attending Gibbs College and working as a teacher in Bridgeport, he had his first experiences with politics working on his father, Americo Santiago’s, campaigns for the same seat he himself later held. He served as a city councilman and a city statistics analyst in Bridgeport before moving on to the Connecticut General Assembly.

In his last Facebook post before his sudden death, Santiago called on the Connecticut General Assembly to increase the minimum wage.

“Everyday [sic] is a fight for the people of the 130th district,” Santiago wrote. “It’s my personal mission to fight for them.”

Many of his fellow representatives remembered Santiago as a quiet but sensible leader in his delegation, the Latino community and the assembly as a whole.

Stafstrom recalled his reputation as a “unifying figure” in the Bridgeport delegation who took a leading role in measures to bring more funding and economic opportunity to the city. These measures included a thermal heat loop to increase renewable energy use and a proposal to bring a new casino to the city — a measure that passed the House last session and is now waiting on approval from the state Senate.

In recent weeks, Santiago threw his support behind several measures aimed at helping working families, including a program to prevent foreclosures and a bill passed to provide loans to furloughed federal workers during the shutdown.

Grief at Santiago’s sudden passing reached beyond the legislature itself.

“The State of Connecticut has lost an outstanding advocate, and our hearts are broken today as we mourn his loss,” Gov. Ned Lamont SOM ’80 said in a statement on March 15. “He was a devoted father, fighter for his community, and a dedicated public servant.”

To honor Santiago’s memory, Lamont ordered that all flags in the state be lowered to half mast on March 15. Flags were raised again on March 22.

At the state Capitol on March 15, the cast of “Rent” sang a rendition of “Seasons of Love” from the musical — a performance planned to raise HIV/AIDS awareness, but later dedicated in Santiago’s honor.

Lamont also announced that a special election to appoint Santiago’s replacement will take place on May 7. According to state law, a writ of special election must be issued within ten days of a vacancy in the General Assembly, and the special election must be held 46 days after the writ is issued.

Santiago leaves behind three children.

Nathalie Bussemaker | nathalie.bussemaker@yale.edu .

NATHALIE BUSSEMAKER