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Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives


As the dean of Arizona’s congressional delegation—and the state’s first Hispanic American elected to Congress—Ed Pastor set many milestones during his career. But while he acknowledged the gains made in the House, Pastor stayed focused on the task before him. “The fact is I am Hispanic, the fact is there is a lot of pride in the Hispanic community. And I join the enthusiasm,” he said after first winning election in 1991. “But as an elected official you represent the entire community.”1

The oldest of three children, Ed López Pastor was born on June 28, 1943, to Enrique and Margarita Pastor. He grew up in the copper mining town of Claypool, Arizona, and attended the public schools in nearby Miami, Arizona.2 Pastor received a scholarship to Arizona State University in Tempe and became the first in his family to go to college, earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1966. After graduation, he taught at North High School in Phoenix, but left in 1969 to become deputy director of a community non-profit. He served as vice president of a legal aid society in 1971 and returned to school, earning his J.D. in 1974 from the Arizona State College of Law in Tempe. He then joined the staff of Arizona’s first Hispanic governor, Raul Héctor Castro, where he worked on civil rights and equal opportunity issues. Pastor married Verma Mendez, and they had two daughters, Laura and Yvonne.3

In 1976, Pastor—seeking to build on his time with the governor’s office—won election as a Democrat to the Maricopa County board of supervisors. When 15-term Congressman Morris Udall resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives in May 1991, Pastor stepped down from the county board to enter the race for the open seat in the 102nd Congress (1989–1991). Facing four other challengers, including Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy, Pastor won the special Democratic primary that August with 37 percent of the vote. He then defeated Republican Pat Conner in the special election on September 24, 1991, with 56 percent of the vote.4 As the first Hispanic elected to Congress from the state of Arizona, Pastor remarked in his victory speech, “It’s a moment of glory for all of us because we are making history together.”5 Despite redistricting after the 2000 Census, Pastor won each of his 11 succeeding elections for the Phoenix area district with more than 62 percent of the vote.6

With less than three months left in the 102nd Congress, Pastor landed on the Education and Labor Committee, the Small Business Committee, and the Select Committee on Aging. In the 103rd Congress (1993–1995), Pastor received an assignment on the Appropriations Committee, a post he held for most of his tenure (103rd; and 105th–113th Congresses, 1997–2015). In the 104th Congress (1995–1997), he temporarily lost his Appropriations seat when Republicans assumed the majority; Pastor transferred to Agriculture and the House Oversight Committees. In the 105th Congress (1997–1999), Pastor returned to Appropriations and joined the Standards of Official Conduct Committee (105th Congress–107th Congresses, 1997–2003). He later served on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (113th Congress, 2013–2015).

Outside his committee duties, Pastor served as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) in the 104th Congress. During Pastor’s chairmanship of the CHC, the Republican reforms of the caucus systems eliminated budget, staff, and offices for service organizations. Despite the difficulties, Pastor kept the CHC intact and hired a shared employee to assist with the caucus’s needs, stating, “We think to be effective in advocating on behalf of the Hispanic community, we need the additional flexibility of having additional people.”7

In 1999, Democratic leaders tapped Pastor to be one of the party’s chief deputy whips—a leadership position he held for the rest of his tenure. A party loyalist, Pastor voted with Democrats more than 90 percent of the time throughout his career.8

Pastor’s post on the Appropriations Committee allowed him to provide funding for many Phoenix based projects. In his more than two decades in the House, Pastor supported numerous projects in his district. As a senior member of the Appropriations subcommittees on Transportation as well as Water and Energy, Pastor championed infrastructure projects in his home state, especially those concerned with energy development, water access, and mass transit.9 “Whatever my constituents ask for, I try to meet their needs,” he told an Arizona newspaper in 2009. “When you’re an appropriator, obviously, you are able to do things, so I try to help as much as I can.”10 He supported many of the Southwest’s environmental programs, and was a frequent advocate for Arizona’s American Indian communities.11

In one of Pastor’s first difficult votes, he backed the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 (Public Law 103–182). Some of his union supporters were angered by the trade agreement, but Pastor choose to support it stating, “we cannot survive, let alone compete, if we become protectionists and isolationists.” Pastor added, “We must face our future with hope, demonstrating confidence in the American workers ability to compete with the rest of the world.”12

On the national level, immigration and education reform were two of Pastor’s most passionate issues. He advocated for the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The bill, he said on the House Floor in 2010, “would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people, who were brought to the U.S. as children, raised in this country, have excelled in our education systems, and have expressed a clear commitment to pursue higher education or military service.”13

Pastor supported universal health care throughout his congressional career. In 1993, he introduced H. Con. Res. 56, “Expressing the sense of Congress that access to basic health care services is a fundamental human right.”14 While the resolution never moved in committee, it set the tone for Pastor’s position on health care. He later supported the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (Public Law 111–3), and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Public Law 111–148). Pastor continued his support, rebuffing attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “With our economy struggling to get back on track,” he insisted, “repealing health care will deny hundreds of small businesses and thousands of families in my district crucial tax credits to help offset the cost of coverage.”15

In February 2014, Ed Pastor announced his retirement at the end of the 113th Congress in early 2015. “After 23 years in Congress, I feel it’s time for me to seek out a new endeavor,” Pastor said. “It’s been a great honor, a great experience and a great joy for me to serve in Congress. I think it’s time for me to do something else.”16 Upon hearing news of the longtime Congressman’s retirement, President Barack Obama remarked, “The first in his family to graduate from college, and the first Hispanic Congressman ever elected from Arizona, Ed Pastor has spent his life fighting to give every American the same chance to work hard and get ahead that this country gave him.”17 Ed Pastor died on November 28, 2018, in Phoenix, Arizona.18


1“Hispanic Candidate Elected To Congress From Arizona,” 26 September 1991, New York Times: B12.

2Congressional Directory, 106th Congress, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1999): 11.

3“Official Biography of Congressman Ed Pastor,”, (accessed 2 May 2012).

4Maralee Schwartz, “Hispanic Victor in Primary Likely to Succeed Udall,” 15 August 1991, Washington Post: A9; Karen Foerstel, “Pastor Victory in Arizona Narrower Than Expected,” 26 September 1991, Roll Call, n.p.; Maralee Schwartz and Lou Cannon, “More Hispanics in Office,” 29 September 1991, Washington Post: A14; Mary Benanti and Desda Moss, “Hispanic to Fill Udall’s Seat in the U.S. House,” 3 October 1991, USA Today: A9.

5Foerstel, “Pastor Victory in Arizona Narrower Than Expected.”

6Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives,"Election Statistics, 1920 to Present."

7Politics in America, 1996 (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 1995): 49; Kenneth Cooper, “Cut Back, Caucuses Struggle to Go Forward,” 23 March 1995, Washington Post: A25.

8Politics in America, 2012 (Washington, D.C.: CQ-Roll Call, Inc., 2011): 36.

9Politics in America, 2012: 36.

10Dan Nowicki, “Rep. Pastor Doesn’t Shy Away from Earmarks,” 11 March 2009, The Arizona Republic: 1.

11Garry Duffy, “Locals Back O’odham Push for Citizenship,” 8 August 2001, Tucson Citizen: C4; Judith Graham, “Border Crackdown Vexes Tribe,” 30 December 2001, Chicago Tribune: C14; Shaun McKinnon and Billy House, “Historic AZ Water Deal: Congress OKs Settlement Empowering Tribes,” 18 November 2004, The Arizona Republic: A1; Billy House, “Tribes Getting Back Land After 90 Years,” 3 August 2005, The Arizona Republic: B1; Politics in America, 2000 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc.: 1999): 49–50.

12Politics in America, 1994 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc.: 1993): 47.

13Congressional Record, House, 111th Cong., 2nd sess. (8 December 2010): H8227.

14H. Con. Res. 56, 103rd Congress, 1st. sess.,

15“Rep. Pastor: Repeal of Health Care Reform Would Harm Constituents, Children, Seniors,” 24 January 2011, Targeted News Service.

16Rebekah L. Sanders and Daniel Gonzalez, “Congressman Ed Pastor Announces Retirement,” 27 February 2014, The Arizona Republic, (accessed 13 April 2016).

17Sanders and Gonzalez, “Congressman Ed Pastor Announces Retirement.”

18Niels Lesniewski, "Former Rep. Ed Pastor Dies at Age 75," 28 November 2018, Roll Call, (accessed 28 November 2018).

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

Arizona State University
Chicano Research Collection

Tempe, AZ
Papers: 1977-1992, 4.5 linear feet. The collection consists of correspondence, reports, and budget records, and appointment books from Congressman Edward Pastor's political career dating back to 1977. These papers contain a record of Congressman Pastor's efforts to provide a voice for the Mexican American community in Arizona. The papers also document his years as a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, and include examples of his efforts to represent his constituency. There are additionally a number of congressional research papers on domestic and foreign issues. A guide to the papers is available online and in the repository.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

"Ed Pastor" in Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-2012. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of the Historian and the Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2013.

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Committee Assignments

  • House Committee - Agriculture
  • House Committee - Appropriations
  • House Committee - Education and Labor
  • House Committee - House Oversight
  • House Committee - Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
  • House Committee - Select Committee on Aging
  • House Committee - Small Business
  • House Committee - Standards of Official Conduct
  • Joint Committee - Joint Committee on the Library
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