Foregoing the pomp and circumstance of announcing her retirement before the end of the legislative session, longtime state Sen. Eileen Daily of Westbrook announced Tuesday that she won’t be running for re-election in the fall.
Daily, 69, said Tuesday that she made the decision this past weekend after attending a memorial service for her sister-in-law, who died last year. She’s been a state senator for 20 years.
“It made me think about how short time is,” Daily said.
With two grandchildren living in Boston where she grew up, Daily said she wants to spend more time with her family.
“I’ve been to dance lessons and hockey lessons, but I’ve never been to a school play,” Daily said.
And the long hours and late nights of this past legislative session took their toll on Daily, who once ran for re-election with two broken legs.
“The past year holding office has become more physically demanding for me and it would be difficult to initiate a re-election campaign,” Daily said in a press release. “I’ve been diagnosed with cancer, endured chemotherapy and associated treatment, and am presently recuperating from a broken ankle.”
Rep. Patricia Widlitz, co-chairwoman of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, said she knew the announcement was coming, but just didn’t want to think it was going to happen.
She said people at the Capitol are “afraid of Eileen as a committee chair, but when you get to know her she’s such a sweet, sensitive person with a big heart.”
Widlitz said she knows Daily doesn’t want the farewell tribute that Sen. Edith Prague received, but there is going to be a special session and she’s still a senator until January, so “she’s not going to get away with this.”
Daily served for five terms as the co-chairwoman of the powerful Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee and, at the national level, she served on the Fiscal Chairs Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures. She also traveled overseas to Ireland to monitor the peacekeeping efforts in the North and to Bahrain where she spent time preparing women to run in local elections.
“That’s a another way that I’ve been so fortunate,” Daily said. “As a little kid from the ghetto I had never heard of Bahrain.”
Daily credits her upbringing in Dorchester, Mass. as one of the reasons she was such an astute politician. “It made me smarter as a candidate and very hard working,” she said.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said he learned a tremendous amount from Daily when he served with her on the Environment Committee.
“She’s an extraordinarily effective politician without a lot of people knowing about it,” he said. “She didn’t need to make a lot of noise to get things done.”
But her positions at the state and national level always took a back seat to her service to her community. She served as First Selectwoman of Westbrook from 1983 to 1989. She was first elected to the General Assembly in 1993.
Daily said she would continue to be involved with her community in retirement and plans to maintain the friendships she’s built over the years with local officials, General Assembly co-chairs, and legislative staff.
“I was always very fortunate to have great co-chairs while all the other committee chairman were fighting,” Daily said.
As a state senator, Daily represented the 12 towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook.