Speaker Brendan Sharkey will not seek re-election to the House next year, making him the 22nd lawmaker and the most powerful to opt out of seeking another term in 2016.
Sharkey’s decision comes after he squeaked through a 74-70 budget vote Friday, and after a year of disagreeing with Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy over several issues, including hospital funding and the General Assembly’s power over the budget.
Sharkey, 54, said Sunday he had a lot of time to think about whether he would be seeking a third term as speaker to finish a public policy agenda, or for his ego. He planned to make a formal announcement Monday.
Sharkey said earlier this year that he would seek a third-term as speaker and had lined up the votes in order to make sure that happened. Former Speakers of the House Thomas Ritter and Moira Lyons were the last two lawmakers to serve three terms as speaker. More recently, James Amann and Chris Donovan both decided not to seek re-election after completing two terms as speaker and running for other offices, Amann for governor and Donovan for Congress. Neither succeeded.
“I had to determine whether my interest in running for a third term was driven by a desire to finish some unfinished business from a policy standpoint, or whether somewhere in there it was . . . about the position and the role rather than the actual interest in pursuing the policy agendas,” Sharkey said. “Was this going to be more about my ego? Or more about pursuing the policy agenda I really feel strongly about?”
Sharkey said the reason for the two-term tradition is that it gives other people a chance to take over.
House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said Sunday evening he was aware that Sharkey was in the process of deciding his political future, but he had not heard from Sharkey personally.
“If he doesn’t run, I definitely would be interested in running for speaker,” Aresimowicz said.
Given the state’s continued deficits and lagging revenues, Aresimowicz said he wouldn’t shy away from seeking the position.
“I thrive on challenges and this is just another challenge,” Aresimowicz, who works for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, said.
Sharkey said it’s not that he didn’t appreciate playing a role in resetting the state’s direction, and he relishes the job of speaker.
“Obviously, these past two years have been very difficult. The budgets have passed with a very narrow margin,” Sharkey said.
He said it requires that you get very little sleep and you spend a lot of time on the phone with his members, but that’s a task he’s up for. However, on a personal level it’s more “than just exhausting, it’s depriving me of really important and valuable time with my family and with my business, which I also have to maintain while taking on this supposedly part-time role.”
Connecticut’s speaker receives an annual compensation of $43,189, including a $4,500 stipend for expenses.
“It’s not the job itself,” Sharkey said Sunday in a phone interview. “I enjoy that. That’s not the problem. I enjoy the challenge that that leadership role offers and frankly I think I do it pretty well, but it takes away from so many important things in my life.”
Sharkey, a lawyer and zoning consultant, also was facing a challenge for his seat from his own party this year too. Josh Elliott, a 31-year-old Hamden attorney and small business owner, announced he would challenge Sharkey at the end of April.
But Sharkey, whose career in the House of Representatives started with a narrow, 184-vote victory over Republican Al Adinolfi in 2000, wasn’t concerned about the challenge. He said he had received a lot of unsolicited support from his constituents who were “annoyed” about the challenge. He took over as speaker in January 2013 and said he would take a bipartisan approach.