Former congressman Martin Sabo dies

Martin Sabo at a press conference at City Hall in 2014. File photo

Martin Olav Sabo, a former congressman who served in the U.S. House for 28 years, died on Sunday at the age of 78.

Sabo, a beloved DFL politician and lawmaker, lived in Minneapolis. He represented the 5th Congressional District, which includes the city and western suburbs, from 1979 until his retirement in 2007 — the end of his 14th term.

He served on the House Appropriations Committee and is credited with securing funding for several capital improvement projects for the district, including many transportation projects. The cable-suspension bridge over Highway 55 that serves bikers and pedestrians on the Midtown Greenway is named in his honor.

Sabo, the son of Norwegian immigrants, got an early start in politics. He was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives at the age of 22 in 1960.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who was elected to represent the 5th Congressional District after Sabo retired, said the country owes Sabo “a tremendous debt of gratitude for his service.”

“This is a sad day for our country. For more than 40 years of public service, Martin Sabo stood up for every Minnesotan — no matter their age, race, or economic standing,” he said. “He was a true progressive, and cared more about fighting for the American people than getting his name in the press. He was a man of substance who worked tirelessly to preserve Social Security, take care of our veterans, improve our public infrastructure, and pass budgets that were fair to working Americans.”

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar called Sabo a friend and mentor.

“At a time when our politics has become increasingly coarse, Martin knew how to be strong but civil, effective but kind,” she said.  “In his quiet Scandinavian way, he was a fierce progressive who got things done for his district and our state. And whether it was playing on the congressional softball team or bringing home the funding for a road or a housing project, Martin Sabo truly enjoyed his work.”