Former state Sen. Eileen Daily, 72, of Westbrook, died Wednesday. She was known as a tenacious lawmaker and served as co-chair of the powerful Finance Committee for five terms.
Daily, who had battled cancer toward the end of her legislative career, decided not to seek re-election in 2012 and to spend more time with her family, many of whom reside in the Boston area where she grew up. She thought that by announcing her retirement after the end of the legislative session in 2012, she would forego the pomp and circumstance of a formal farewell. Bt that year there was a special session and lawmakers spent two hours commemorating her 20-year legislative career.
At the end of the two hours of speeches, Daily stood up and said “thank you” and then sat back down. She was a fierce, but quiet advocate for her constituents who didn’t like being in the spotlight. She liked the hard work of public service.
“Eileen was one of the toughest elected officials in the state, yet her jovial disposition always made those around her feel at ease,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said. “She represented the best of public service and politics. She was tough, loyal, hardworking, knew the issues, and her word was always her bond.”
Democratic Party Vice Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo echoed the governor’s remarks.
“Throughout her career in public service, she fought tenaciously for her community,” DiNardo, said. “And with that same vigor, she fought cancer heroically. But most importantly to me, she was always a good friend, and I will miss her.”
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said that “within the walls of the State Capitol, Eileen was more than just a public servant — she was a genuine leader. To me, Eileen was more than colleague — she was a friend.”
But aside from being a friend, Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, described her as “an authoritative voice on any number of different policy matters, a skilled advocate and a force to be reckoned with in any debate.”
He added that “It is a testament to Eileen’s legacy that others have sought to imitate her leadership style, because that is all they can do—imitate her.”
Daily served for five terms as the co-chairwoman of the 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 another way that I’ve been so fortunate,” Daily said in May 2012 when she announced she wasn’t seeking re-election. “As a little kid from the ghetto I had never heard of Bahrain.”
Daily credited 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. Art Linares, the Republican who was elected to succeed Daily, said she worked “tirelessly” on behalf of her constituents and her environmental advocacy will leave a lasting legacy.
“She was personable and she knew the issues inside and out. Sen. Daily was respected by everyone at the State Capitol,” Linares said. “Today, we honor Sen. Daily for her service and we remember her many accomplishments. Her passing is a tremendous loss for Westbrook and for Connecticut. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sen. Daily’s family and friends.”
Daily served as First Selectwoman of Westbrook from 1983 to 1989. She was first elected to the General Assembly in 1993.
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.