Senate President Donald Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, announced Wednesday that he won’t be seeking re-election in the fall.
After 21 years as a state Senator and 10 years as the leader for the third floor chamber, Williams surprised many of his colleagues when he decided to call it quits.
“After serving 10 years as President Pro Tempore of the State Senate, I look forward to pursuing other challenges at the end of this term,” Williams said in a press release. “The progress we have made when facing difficult challenges, particularly in the past four years with the help of Governor Malloy, has been substantial, and Connecticut is well positioned for new growth in the years ahead.”
Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said she was surprised by Williams decision. She said he had a wealth of institutional knowledge and a propensity for policy-driven decisions. She said his departure will be a loss for the Senate.
“I think we’re losing one of the greatest senators we have. He’s really so thoughtful and driven by policy more than politics. It’s a big loss for the Senate,” she said. “It’s been really great to work with him, as someone who loves policy.”
Sen. Joseph Crisco, D-Woodbridge, said Williams’ departure will be a “loss to the state of Connecticut and its people.”
He said Williams had the ability to bring the caucus together on important issues.
Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said Williams had a very “distinguished career” and has been on the forefront of many issues.
“His presence will be greatly missed,” Duff said.
Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, would be the next in line to succeed Williams as President Pro Tempore.
On Wednesday, Looney praised Williams leadership abilities. He said Williams’ actions during the debate over the repeal of the death penalty in 2012 illustrated his ability to bring people together. Williams organized a group of undecided senators to visit the state’s death row facilities so they could see the conditions for themselves. The bill passed through the Senate that year with more votes than expected.
“Don has been a superb leader,” Looney said. “He has led with a steady hand and helped bring people together.”
In a statement Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called Williams “a great ally and friend.”
“He works tirelessly for his constituents and fights hard for what he believes. I’m proud to have worked with him to find common ground on some of the most important issues of our day, including creating jobs and investing in our public schools. The Senate will no doubt miss his leadership and his passion. I wish him the best in whatever he decides to do next,” he said.
Williams succeeded Kevin Sullivan when Sullivan went to serve as lieutenant governor after former Gov. John G. Rowland resigned in 2004.
Williams did not indicate what his future plans are beyond not running for re-election. However, it may include writing. Williams spoke last week about a book he has spent the last six years working on about the national civil rights impact of state heroine, Prudence Crandall’s court battles. His book will be published by Wesleyan University in June.