Majority Leader Denise Merrill, a Democrat from Mansfield, said after 17 years of representing the northeastern town she’s “moving on and moving up to a job I’ve always wanted.” That job is Secretary of the State.

“It’s time for me to move on and move up,” Merrill said Monday at the Mansfield Community Center.

She said people have asked her why she wants to be Secretary of the State when she already holds the second most powerful position in the House of Representatives.

“I have always been passionate about civic engagement,” Merrill said. “There is no more important role that any public official can play than to actively engage the next generation of citizens.”

Some have said Merrill is leaving the House of Representatives because she knows how bad the state’s fiscal situation is and is frustrated with her party’s approach to solving the budget crisis in a meaningful way.

But Merrill said that’s not true. “I think I’m leaving the General Assembly in good hands,” she said looking over at House Speaker Chris Donovan of Meriden.

“I’m sure I’ll have other challenges. By the way, this is not an easy job to run statewide. There are lots of other people running. I’m certainly not doing this shirking any jobs,” Merrill said.

“I think I will leave the General Assembly in good hands and I’m eager for the job,” Merrill said.

She said she’s already been in the House of Representatives eight years longer than she expected and “you sense when it’s time to move on.”

Donovan said he will miss having Merrill at his side, but is proud to support her candidacy for Secretary of the State. “She’s a fierce defender of democracy,” he said.

If elected Secretary of the State Merrill said civic engagement will be a fundamental part of her role as the state‘s chief elections official.

“With more and more money pouring into politics as it will this year with the recent Supreme Court case it will be increasingly important to protect our electoral process from the potential influence of that money,” Merrill said.

The Secretary of the State is also the state’s chief business registrar. Merrill said the state must adopt policies that grow our state’s economy. She said as Secretary of the State she would expand the office’s online presence and allow businesses to renew their registration online.

“It is in times like these, especially in times like these, elected officials must rise to meet the challenges,” Merrill said.

Merrill will be running against former New Haven Alderman Jerry Garcia, state Sen. Jonathan Harris of West Hartford, state Rep. James Spallone of Essex, and Norwalk Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel