State rep’s sudden death leaves vacant House seat

State rep’s sudden death leaves vacant House seat

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Residents of parts of Center City and the river wards  will go unrepresented in the Pennsylvania state House for the rest of the year following the sudden death of Rep. Mike O’Brien on Monday.

O’Brien, who served almost six terms, died of a heart attack in the Fishtown home where he grew up. He was 64.

The representative served as a House Democrat for the 175th legislative district, which includes Old City, parts of Washington Square West, Northern Liberties, Fishtown and Kensington. House speaker Mike Turzai confirmed in a statement that there are no plans to fill O’Brien’s House seat before the November general election. 

During his tenure, O’Brien served as the vice chair of the State Government Committee and sat on the Consumer Affairs, Education, Health and Policy committees, as well as the Select Committee on Ethics. In 2011, O’Brien, a champion of LGBT rights, was appointed to the LGBT Equality Caucus. He was instrumental in the establishment of them John C. Anderson Apartments, an LGBT-friendly residence for seniors. The building’s Kelley Community Room is named after O’Brien’s school friend, who died of AIDS.

O’Brien attended Northeast Catholic High School for Boys and La Salle University. Before his career in politics, he served as the director of operations for a meat business in the city. He then took a position as chief of staff to his predecessor, Rep. Marie Lederer, a position he held for 12 years.

O’Brien was first elected to the House in 2006. In July, O’Brien announced he would not seek reelection, citing health issues. His longtime chief of staff, Mary Isaacson, replaced him as the party nominee for the 175th district.

“We’re deeply saddened. It’s a loss for everyone. He couldn’t have been a better representative for this district at the time that he served it,” Isaacson told PGN. “He taught me to always represent the district and put the people of the district first. I know the issues that face the district and will continue to fight for equal rights for women as well as the LGBT community, fighting for fair education for everyone and protecting the environment.”

O’Brien is survived by his wife, Rita, and their two children, Bridget and Michael.

His funeral will be held 10 a.m. Oct. 19 at Old St. Joseph’s Church, 321 Willings Alley. 

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