Sen. Ed Mayne, D-West Valley, a lifelong champion of labor and the underprivileged, who was elected to the Utah Senate four times, died Sunday surrounded by his family in West Valley City.
First elected to the Senate in 1994, he rose to the rank of assistant minority whip. He also was the president of the Utah AFL-CIO.
Leaders of both political parties said his wife, Karen, may be
appointed to take his place as senator. After someone is appointed senator, it will be up to the Democrats of that chamber to decide who should become the new assistant minority whip.
Sen. Mayne, 62, was remembered by acquaintances not only for championing working men and women and families but also for his good humor and gentlemanly demeanor.
Earlier this year he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He pledged to continue battling for causes he supported, and as late as September told a legislative committee that employers who paid workers in cash were suppressing wages, taxes and everything else.
"It's killing our system," he said. "If we don't do something in the enforcement area, we've really made a mistake."
Jamie Jennings, Sen. Mayne's daughter, said Sunday that his death was "very peaceful, surrounded by his family at home."
She commented on "what a wonderful guy he was and how much he did to help the west side."
Her father was, Jennings added, "the voice for working families." She said funeral arrangements probably would be finalized by Monday night.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Sen. Mayne served honorably and selflessly in an effort to make Utah a better place for all.
"Eddie epitomized public service in all that he did throughout his career," the governor said in a statement issued Sunday night.
"His devotion to those who were in need of help should stand as an example to all. One could always count on Senator Mayne to stand up for those who could not defend themselves. On behalf of a grateful State, Mary Kaye and I offer our most sincere condolences to Karen and the rest of the Mayne family." Huntsman authorized the national flag and the flag of the state to be flown at half-staff on all state-owned facilities on the day of interment, says the release.
"Sen. Mayne was a real giant," said Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem. That was true "more than just in stature.
"He's the kind of guy that really, really cared about people, especially working men and women, and he fought really hard for the things he believed in." He was always a gentleman, he added, and "we're going to miss him."
It will be up to the Utah Democratic Party to nominate a replacement senator, he said. The party will forward names to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to choose from.
"We're all hoping ... that the party will recognize the important contributions his wife has made, Karen, and will consider her as a possible nominee," Valentine said.
Although it's the statutory responsibility of the Democratic Party to name possible replacements and he is a Republican, Valentine said he personally hopes the Democrats will consider Karen Mayne because "she would make a great senator."
Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, said the Democratic Central Committee will send a recommendation to Huntsman for a replacement.
"The governor then makes the final appointment," he said. "It'll probably be his wife, I'm just guessing."
Dmitrich said Sen. Mayne was a true fighter, battling for senior citizens, to provide eyeglasses and dental care for the disadvantaged, for a boost in the minimum wage. "Ed was the most compassionate and toughest individual I've ever known," he said. "He had that mean approach, but he was very mild and well-mannered. And he always looked out for the less fortunate people in our society."
He fought endlessly for those people, he said. At the same time, Dmitrich added, Sen. Mayne was a loving person. "His love for animals and human beings was unsurpassed by anybody."
Once a new senator is appointed, leaders of Senate Democrats will hold a meeting to choose a new assistant minority whip.
Senate Minority Whip Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, said Senate Democrats "are very saddened by his loss. We looked to Ed's leadership and his concerns. He was always a champion of the people."
Davis said Sen. Mayne not only talked about working men and women, he lived his life working "to improve their well-being, whether it be minimum wage battles, whether it be battles for folks who live in some of the trailer parks in town, whether it be those who may be hurt by the payday loan companies."
Sen. Mayne was always there championing those causes, Davis said, and he "truly represented his district."
His death is a major loss to the people whose causes he espoused and to the state of Utah, he said.
Reporters who covered the Legislature recalled Sen. Mayne taking DVDs like the movie "Babe" to legislative session's final days, and playing them on his computer with the screen turned to allow those in the press gallery to watch, too.
He always maintained a good sense of humor on the floor, even when disagreements arose, observers said. A fund-raiser for Mayne that was scheduled earlier will still be held on Dec. 4, said Randy Horiuchi, a member of the Salt Lake County Council. Planned for the Grand America Hotel, its speakers will include Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, he said.
"We're going to have a tribute, and his (Mayne's) family, of course, will all be there," he said. A video has been prepared showing highlights from Mr. Mayne's life.
"I think it will still be a tribute and a bit of a roast," Horiuchi said. "Ed is one of the most beloved public officials that I've ever known." Money from the fund-raiser could go to defray some of the family's medical expenses and other purposes.
Sen. Mayne attended Snow College and then worked in the Kennecott copper mine after his first year in college. He stayed, and after 13 years, in 1977, ran for the state presidency of the ALFAFL-CIO. At age 31, he was elected by 13 delegate votes, becoming the youngest state president of the group.An AFL-CIO statement about his death said, "His joyous, battling spirit that so distinguished his life and his politics will be missed."
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche, Rebecca Palmer E-mail: [email protected]
E-mail: [email protected]