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Longtime DFL lawmaker Martin Olav Sabo dies at age 78

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Former U.S. Representative Martin Olav Sabo has died, his former staffer announced Sunday. He was 78 years old.

Sabo, a Democrat who represented Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District for 28 years, died Sunday, Mike Erlandson, Sabo's former chief of staff, said in a statement to the Pioneer Press.

The newspaper called him arguably the state's "most influential policy maker behind the scenes in Washington."

Sabo, an Augsburg College graduate, was elected to the state Legislature in 1960, where he served for 18 years including as the House minority leader and speaker of the House, his bio says, before being elected to Congress, where he served until his retirement in 2006.

During his tenure he chaired the U.S. House Budget Committee, his bio notes, and helped restore fiscal discipline to the federal government, the Pioneer Press says.

He was also appointed to the National Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, served as the president of the National Conference of State Legislators and president of the National Legislative Conference.

In 2011, he was appointed to the Minnesota Ballpark Authority's Board of Commissioners by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2011, the authority's website says.

Sabo also served as co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center's National Transportation Policy Project. For his work to acquire funds for transportation, the Midtown Greenway Bridge in Minneapolis was named the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge in 2007 in his honor, the authority's website notes.

Sabo, whose parents were Norwegian immigrants, was also appointed Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit in 2006 for his work on Norwegian-American relations.

Erlandson told the Star Tribune Sabo had been ailing recently, but did have a chance to say goodbye to family before he died around 9:30 a.m. Sunday at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Politicians and lawmakers across the state have been sharing their condolences and memories for Sabo. Gov. Dayton called him a "great political leader" and "outstanding public servant," noting infrastructure projects exist statewide because of him.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said he was a "master legislator," "kind and decent" and a "leader who delivered results through creativity and compromise."

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