HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill announced Wednesday that she will not run for re-election.
After a decade as the secretary of the state, Merrill, a Democrat, says she is not running again. The long-time public servant drew a crowd at the Capitol for the announcement.
A warm embrace from her husband Dr. Stephen Leach and tears from staff, examples of the emotion around Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s surprise announcement.
Serving three terms as your Secretary of the State has been the honor of my life…I’m so proud of what we have accomplished together during my past three terms. I came into this office in 2011 with a promise to update and modernize the office with new technology and new ideas.
I wanted to make sure that Connecticut’s election system reflected our modern world and not 18th century Connecticut when it was designed. I wanted to make it easier for businesses to register and do business in the state, and to access business filings online.
We made it easier for Connecticut citizens to register to vote by setting up online voter registration, Election Day Registration, and Automatic Voter Registration through the DMV, and now beyond.
I am proud to say that we have done all that and moreover this past decade.
Though not retiring, the 72-year-old Merrill says now was the right moment. “More people voting, more voter turnout, more people registering to vote, and more easily than ever before in the history of the state,” added Merrill.
Secretary for the last decade – the pandemic made the last year memorable: an outdoor swearing-in, ballot drop-off boxes, and two constitutional amendments to expand voting rights.
Merrill says that fight has been important to her tenure. “As I leave office, voters will be choosing to authorize early voting, and then allowing universal access to absentee ballot is moving to its eventual passage.”
Merrill was first elected to the Mansfield Board of Education in 1991. Then on to the State House in 1994. In 2011 elected to a constitutional seat where she has been re-elected several times.
Republicans have criticized her for mailing absentee ballot applications to every voter in the state during the pandemic in 2020. Some say potentially opening up the door to voter fraud.
She has also been on the national stage fighting for voting rights in Congress. “All I can say is in the end I hope I’ve made a difference,” said Merrill.
Secretary Merill has sat on her porch with News 8 Chief Political Correspondent Jodi Latina for important stories and joined our News 8 team to talk election changes.
So ,who should replace her?
“Maybe it’ll be someone from a minority community that would be wonderful. I myself would like to see a woman in my place. I think it’s a wide-open race at this point.”
In a statement following Merrill’s announcement, Gov. Lamont said, “Denise Merrill has undoubtedly left her mark on Connecticut and has been among the most vocal champions of voter rights in our state. At a time in history when some of her counterparts across the nation are working to enact provisions that block access to voting, she has worked tirelessly to ensure that every eligible adult has the ability to cast a ballot with ease and not need to jump through endless bureaucratic hoops to practice their democratic rights. As Connecticut’s voting laws evolve in the future making it easier for all of us to vote, I’ll be thinking of how Denise fought tirelessly for these changes.”
“Denise Merrill has been a national leader and fighter for free and fair elections, and our democracy is stronger thanks to her leadership,” Attorney General Tong said of Merrill’s choice not to run again. “Especially during this last year, through the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, she ensured that every Connecticut voter had the ability to cast their ballot safely.”