Home>Feature>The O’Toole Chronicles: Steve Oroho — A Gentleman Among Politicians

State Sen. Steven Oroho. (Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe).

The O’Toole Chronicles: Steve Oroho — A Gentleman Among Politicians

By Kevin O'Toole, January 31 2023 12:01 am

A few months ago, I penned a tribute to Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho in which I wrote about his everyman entrance into politics, his unlikely ascension to the State Senate, and move to the top job in the GOP Senate Caucus. Little did I know then that Senator Steve would soon be ending his elected political life, but I knew that he wouldn’t be a lifer in the Senate.

I remember well when I pulled the plug on my legislative career and announced that I would not be running again. After 22 years of being a State Legislator (11 years in the Assembly and 11 years in the Senate), I knew that I had climbed the Trenton mountain top and was done. My announcement caught many by surprise and my enemies trafficked not-so-kind “reasons” for my announcement. The reality was that you know in your heart that you only have so much to give and there comes a time to move on and let the next generation take over.

Steve has had a long and successful career in finance, and never envisioned himself stepping into the political arena. Enter it he did, and he served locally and in Trenton with distinction and selflessness. I worked side-by-side with Steve on the Senate Budget Committee and no one understood the impacts of fiscal and tax policy better (There are a lot people who will be happy to not have to hear about the “Massachusetts study” anymore. Right, Senator Sarlo?). Steve knew that we were on a fiscal cliff and we needed to bring about some restraint. Steve was the adult in the room and politics rarely entered into his fiscal thought process.

All of the platitudes and niceties aside, don’t let that mountain-man exterior fool you, there is a political “killer” inside. As uncomfortable as he was living in that space, there has to be. To survive in Sussex County politics as a conservative politician who didn’t want to just throw proverbial political “grenades” from the cheap seats, you had to be willing to take your share of lumps. He fought back a bruising and vicious primary against a well-established opponent and managed to maintain a level of order over politics in his home county.

The Steve we all know is the gregarious gentleman, with a smile on his face and never a foul word uttered. He is an amazing family man, an accomplished businessperson, and a pretty good golfer (knee replacement surgery and all). He and his phenomenal wife, Rita, take care of his kids and 10 (by last count) grandkids.

Steve set the standard for being the citizen legislator and I do believe Thomas Jefferson had him in mind when he wrote in 1799 to Richard Henry Clay:

“In a virtuous government…the public offices are what they should be: a burden to those appointed to them, which is the why it would be wrong to decline, those unforeseen to bring with the intense labor and great private loss.”

Thank you Senator Steve for your virtuous service and enjoy the victory lap of this year.

Steve, you are a good man, you brought honor to this profession and you make your constituents proud.

Trenton’s loss is his family’s gain.

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