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Matthew G. 'Marty' Martinez dies at 82; former congressman

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Former U.S. Rep. Matthew G. "Marty" Martinez, an advocate for youth and the elderly who switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican after he was voted out of office in 2000, died Oct. 15 at his home in Fredericksburg, Va., his family said. He was 82.

The cause of death was not disclosed.

Martinez won a special election in 1982 to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Rep. George E. Danielson (D-Monterey Park).

Reelected eight times, he was one of the major sponsors of the 1992 reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, which supported programs for the elderly, including Meals on Wheels. He was also the main sponsor of the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, which created AmeriCorps, a network of national service programs.

In 2000, he lost his bid for a 10th term when he was decisively defeated in the primary by Democratic state Sen. Hilda Solis, who went on to capture the 31st Congressional District seat, which ran from East Los Angeles through nine San Gabriel Valley cities, including Monterey Park, Alhambra and Rosemead, until redistricting shifted it farther west. Critics of Martinez said at the time that his support for a gun-control measure backed by the National Rifle Assn. and his efforts to help ban late-term abortions had made him vulnerable to a challenge.

He made headlines as a lame-duck legislator when he changed his party registration to Republican, giving the GOP a seven-vote margin for his final five months in office.

Born in Walsenberg, Colo., on Feb. 14, 1929, Martinez grew up in Los Angeles, where he attended Roosevelt High School and served in the Marines before attending Los Angeles Trade Technical College. He later settled in Monterey Park and ran a furniture upholstery business. He was a Republican until he began his political career in the early 1970s as a Monterey Park city councilman.

He served two terms as mayor of Monterey Park before running successfully for the state Assembly in 1980. One of his five children, Democrat Diane Martinez, followed his political path, serving in the Assembly from 1992 to 1998.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife, Maxine Grant; four children; two stepchildren; 15 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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