By Karl Kurtz
"The field of state politics lost a giant." So said University of Illinois Springfield Prof. Chris Mooney upon learning of the death last night of Rutgers University Prof. Alan Rosenthal. Here's an excerpt from a lengthy and informative article about Rosenthal in The Star Ledger today:
Alan Rosenthal, a Rutgers University political science professor whose quiet demeanor masked his far-reaching influence on government in New Jersey and beyond, has died.
Rosenthal, 81, succumbed to cancer Tuesday at his Princeton home.
Although most recently known for casting the deciding vote two years ago on a map that will help decide the state’s Senate and Assembly elections for the next decade, Rosenthal’s most enduring legacy is helping to build state Legislatures – including New Jersey’s — into more powerful branches of government that rival the governor and judiciary.
“He had more influence nationally over state legislatures and their operations in the last 40 or 45 years than anybody else in the country," said William Pound, executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures. "There’s no question about it."
But that influence did not feed into ego, according to Raymond Bateman, a former senate president who knew Rosenthal since the 1960s.
"He was a self-effacing guy. He never worked to get in the spotlight, but he always did his work well," Bateman said. "Alan was in the vanguard of people who were really trying to make the Legislature better... When Alan talked about legislatures, legislators listened."
Look for a full-length tribute to Alan Rosenthal in the July-August issue of State Legislatures magazine. The articles in that tribute touch not only on Rosenthal's extraordinary contributions to the study of state politics but also his far-reaching impact on strengthening the legislative branch of government across the nation, his leadership of efforts to improve public understanding of representative democracy and his commitment and support to NCSL and other national organizations.
As part of the tribute, I solicited testimonials from 66 current and former legislators, staff, governors, lobbyists, students and political scientists who have known Alan well. Remarkably, 37 of these highly placed and busy people responded with comments about his effect on their lives. For example, former Wyoming U.S. Senator Alan Simpson said:
Alan Rosenthal shaped my legislative life. We first met when I was a young Wyoming state legislator. Here was this amazing, creative, inspiring, warm, wise and witty man. He became my mentor as to how to make legislating work. He was a game changer for me. My life is richer for having shared a portion of it with him. I consider him to be one of the greatest influences in my life as a legislator. There have been many other influential people in other areas of my life, but he won the prize in that field. He was “The Wizard” in my mind.
Simpson's comments, along with 36 others, can be found in an online supplement to the July-August issue of State Legislatures magazine.
I have known Alan for more than 40 years as mentor, collaborator and good friend. Our once a month or so hour-long phone conversations--lively dialogues ranging across American state politics, civic education and life in general--have been a highlight and staple of my life for many years. I have missed his energy and ideas over the last several months as he has been in decline with his terrible cancer. He is irreplaceable.