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Rep. Ezequiel Santiago in 2012 (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

BRIDGEPORT, CT — Bridgeport Rep. Ezequiel Santiago, 45, died Thursday night after suffering a heart attack.

Santiago is chairman of Bridgeport’s all Democratic legislative delegation and has served in the legislature since 2008.

He is the father of three children — all girls. He was born in New Jersey and raised in the south end of Bridgeport.

Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday directed the Connecticut flag to fly at half-staff in Santiago’s honor.

“We were terribly saddened to learn this morning of the sudden passing of Representative Ezequiel Santiago, a man who truly loved public service and his hometown of Bridgeport,” Lamont said.

“The State of Connecticut has lost an outstanding advocate, and our hearts are broken today as we mourn his loss,” Lamont said. “He was a devoted father, fighter for his community, and a dedicated public servant. Our prayers are with his family, friends, and constituents at this difficult time.”

Besides his work in the legislature Santiago worked for the city of Bridgeport as a small business liaison. He was also a member of the Puerto Rican Parade of Fairfield County, Inc., the Hispanic Heritage Committee, and he also was a board member of the Bridgeport YMCA.

His death came as a shock to his colleagues in the legislature.

“We are stunned and saddened at the loss of our friend and colleague,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, and Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said in a joint statement Friday morning.

“Ezequiel Santiago was a giant of our caucus and the entire legislature,” Aresimowicz and Ritter said. “His commitment to the people of Bridgeport was legendary.”

Ritter and Aresimowicz said Santiago was a “leader in the state’s Latino community who brought people together, no matter how tough or controversial the issue.”

Santiago was the chairman of the Banking Committee and sat on the Appropriations and Commerce committees.

He was also a staunch advocate for the construction of a casino in Bridgeport.

“As a member of the House Democrats’ leadership team, Ezequiel was universally respected for his knowledge of the issues and his quiet, even-handed leadership of the Banks Committee,” Aresimowicz and Ritter said. “Our hearts are broken. We will miss his strong, quiet leadership. We will miss his friendship.”

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Rep. Ezequiel Santiago in 2015 during an education debate (ctnewsjunkie file photo)