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Victor Fazio, Longtime Democratic Leader in the House, Dies at 79

Victor Fazio, a longtime Democratic member of Congress from California who served in House leadership for several years, died on March 16 at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 79.

The cause was cancer, according to a statement from his former congressional office.

Mr. Fazio represented the Sacramento area from 1979 to 1999. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, he helped bring home funding for numerous projects, including a multimillion-dollar environmental institute at the University of California, Davis. He also lobbied for the funds to protect 3,700 acres of wetlands west of Sacramento as a refuge; dedicated by President Bill Clinton in 1997, it is known as the Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area.

Known for his low-key, bipartisan style, he often worked in partnership with the powerful California Republican representative Jerry Lewis, who died last year.

Perhaps Mr. Fazio’s most difficult period was his tenure as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1994 — the year that Republicans, led by Representative Newt Gingrich, took control of the House for the first time in 40 years.

Still, because of Mr. Fazio’s ability to work across the aisle, his colleagues chose him the next year as chairman of the House Democratic caucus.

After he retired from Congress, he worked at a public relations firm in Washington led by Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman. He later joined the Washington office of the powerhouse law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and was regularly named to the annual list of top lobbyists by the political newspaper The Hill. He retired from Akin Gump in 2020.

Victor Herbert Fazio Jr. was born in Winchester, Mass., on Oct. 11, 1942. His father was an insurance salesman, his mother a homemaker and dress shop manager.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., in 1965 before going to California on a Caro Foundation fellowship.

In 1970, he co-founded California Journal magazine, now defunct, which covered state government and politics, and served in the California State Assembly before winning his House seat in 1978.

His first marriage, to Joella Mason, ended in divorce. His second wife, Judy Neidhardt Kern, whom he married in 1983, died in 2015.

In 2017, he married Ms. Sawyer. In addition to her, he is survived by a daughter from his first marriage, Dana Fazio Lawrie; two stepchildren, Kevin and Kristie Kern; and four granddaughters. A daughter, Anne Noel Fazio, died in 1995.

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