The 43-year-old who represents counties here in the Big Bend died of liver cancer on Friday, five months after being elected, four months after being diagnosed, and just three weeks after the start of his first session as a lawmaker.
An Honor Guard of the Capitol Police and Florida Highway Patrol escorted Rep. David Coley’s casket into the Capitol where he would lie in state in the House Chamber.
Inside, Coley’s wife Marti and three children greeted well-wishers who filed by to pay respects and share memories of the man everyone remembers as a dedicated public servant.
House Speaker Allan Bense says in many ways, he owes his legislative career to Coley. Coley worked behind the scenes as Bense’s aide for six years before realizing his dream of becoming a legislator himself.
Rep. Allan Bense, (R) FL, says, “David is very good at making sure all of our constituents’ needs were taken care of and followed up on, and he took a personal interest in many of those, and you could tell it and see it, and occasionally I’d say, ‘David, you’ve done all you can do,’ and well, I’ll keep on trying. He was a good advocate for the people.”
House Democratic leader Chris Smith remembers Coley as a man who didn’t let politics get in the way of good policy.
Rep. Chris Smith, (D) Ft. Lauderdale, says, “He was just a very fair person, treated everyone equally whether Republican, Democrat, senior member, freshman member; he was a very, I just remember Dave as a very fair person.”
His colleagues say Coley’s passing has left a void in the House, but they believe this deeply religious man is at peace.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, (R) Ocala, says, “There’s a lot of sadness, but he was such a strong person of faith that there really is an element of joy. Can you imagine being home for Easter right now? He’s really home.”
Gov. Jeb Bush ordered flags at half-staff through Wednesday in Coley’s honor.
This is the first time in recent memory a legislator who passed away has been honored with lying in state in the House Chamber. A special election will be held later this year to fill David Coley’s seat.