At the age of 80, a long-standing moderate Republican lawmaker Jim Kolbe who served 11 terms representing a district that included Tucson, Arizona, passed away. According to reports, Kolbe served in Washington for 22 years and was a supporter of free trade and more lenient immigration laws, according to The Conservative Brief.
"Pima County and Southern Arizona could always count on Jim Kolbe," Sharon Bronson, the Pima County Board of Supervisors chair, said Saturday in a statement announcing his death.
"Whether when he was in the state Legislature or in Congress, the man from Patagonia always acted in the best interests of Southern Arizona. "Jim was old school Republican in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower – a friend of business and the environment," Bronson continued.
"The preservation and conservation of beloved wild spaces and cultural treasures like Canoa Ranch and the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area are the result in large part to Jim's leadership while in the Congress."
Jim Kolbe dies at 80 https://t.co/iLtosBQPh5
— Washington Blade (@WashBlade) December 6, 2022
Kolb was honored and lauded by outgoing governor Doug Ducey (R) on Saturday, who called him "a true elder statesman and political powerhouse."
"Congressman Jim Kolbe never wavered in his responsibility to our state and nation," Ducey said. "We are deeply saddened by his passing."
Arizona lost a true elder statesman and political powerhouse today. Congressman Jim Kolbe never wavered in his responsibility to our state and nation. We are deeply saddened by his passing. 1/
— Doug Ducey (@DougDucey) December 3, 2022
USA Today noted further:
Kolbe entered Congress after the 1984 elections, when President Ronald Reagan’s sunny optimism was winning over some Democrats, and left in 2007 as partisanship deepened, making it more difficult for Republicans to compete in southern Arizona.
He departed Washington out of sync with the GOP in important ways: He was gay, supported abortion rights and a guest-worker program to help manage the growing restlessness about the nation’s immigration system.
Kolbe spent his career after Congress working for think tanks, consulting firms, and teaching. He remained a Republican but more often lent a bipartisan appearance to Democratic causes.
He was appointed by then-President Barack Obama as an advisor on trade matters, and he backed Democrat Andrei Cherny over Republican Ducy in the 2010 race for Arizona treasurer. After he left office, he stepped down as the chief Republican running for his old House seat, which allowed then-Democrat Gabrielle Giffords to gain reelection in 2008.
Kolb changed his party affiliation from Republican to Independent in 2018 when then-President Donald Trump was in office: "People are making a bigger deal about (the voter registration change) than I have," Kolbe told The Arizona Republic in 2020, when he also endorsed Joe Biden for president over Trump. "I've always been fairly independent in my thinking. It doesn't change my values.
"Kolbe was born in Evanston, Illinois, but raised in Patagonia. His family cared about politics and it became a passion for Jim and for his older brother, John Kolbe, who became a high-profile political columnist for the Phoenix Gazette and The Arizona Republic until his death from cancer in 1998," USA Today noted further.
"Kolbe was a page in Washington for then-Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., from 1958 until 1960. He received a bachelor's degree in political science from Northwestern University in 1965 and a master's in business administration from Stanford University two years later," the paper reported.