Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Gov. Malloy announces he’s not seeking re-election in Hartford on Thursday (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ended the speculation Thursday about whether he will seek a third term. He won’t. Malloy, 61, gathered his staff on the fourth floor of the state Capitol Thursday to deliver the news before heading down to a 2 p.m. press conference.

Malloy could have waited until after the legislative session or at least until after negotiating a state budget deal to make the announcement, but he didn’t.

He said he first reached the decision not to run for re-election back in August, and then again in September. But he changed his mind a few times before the idea of not running for re-election made sense and made him happy.

—Text of Malloy’s remarks Thursday

“I gave myself enough time to make sure I don’t want to change that decision,” Malloy said. “I’m very comfortable and happy with the decision I’ve made.”

Malloy said he made the announcement before the long Easter weekend so that reporters could get their stories written and he could get back to work on Monday without having to deal with the distraction.

The governor also made the point that he’s sticking around until the end of his term in January 2019.

“I’m going to be governor until January 2019 and every single day I expect that myself and my staff will be working very hard to continue the process of refinishing, of finishing the work we began quite literally the first day I was sworn in,” Malloy said.

Narrowly elected in 2010 following the Great Recession, the now unpopular governor was faced with a one-year, $3.67 billion budget deficit. In order to solve it, he implemented what ended up being the state’s largest tax increase, brokered a concession package with state employee unions, and cut spending slightly in 2011.

That first year Malloy talked about how “shared sacrifice” would get the state back on the right path. It didn’t happen and deeper spending cuts were sought as the governor worked to restructure the state budget. The spending cuts and restructuring have not been popular within the Democratic Party.

Many speculated that he wouldn’t win a second term, but he was re-elected by a larger majority — a margin of more than 28,000 votes — in 2014 after a bruising rematch with Republican Tom Foley.

Asked about his dismal approval ratings, Malloy joked, “you can’t love somebody until you get to know them.”

In the meantime, Malloy, a pragmatist who tussled with unions on the left and Republicans on the right, worked hard to close Connecticut’s persistent budget gap.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie

However, the state’s economy didn’t recover quickly and by 2015 he was proposing what ended up being the state’s second largest tax increase in history.

Asked how he would characterize the job he’s done on getting Connecticut’s fiscal house in order, Malloy said “I think we’ve done a good job.”

When a reporter reminded him his decision not to seek re-election would free him up to make decisions without political consideration, Malloy replied, “I’ve been doing that for a long time.”

Malloy’s staff and agency heads who gathered at the state Capitol for the announcement all laughed and acknowledged that their boss doesn’t give much consideration to political consequences when he makes decisions. They gave the comment a round of applause and laughs.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, who attended the announcement, agreed the governor has never been afraid to make tough decisions, “even decisions that were sometimes unpopular — for the good of the state.”

He concluded that Connecticut is better off because of Malloy.

But the first Democratic governor in 20 years has not been especially popular with the opposite party.

JR Romano, chairman of the Republican Party, said the governor’s announcement is not a surprise.

“But what everyone needs to understand is Dan Malloy was one symptom, the real problem lies with the Democratic Party who has voted for tax increases that have led to this fiscal calamity,” Romano said.

Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North, said he might not always agree with Malloy, but he respects “him greatly for his tireless work ethic and dedication to Connecticut.”

The former Stamford mayor who is currently head of the Democratic Governors Association was thought to be a candidate for a White House position if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election.

But that did not come to pass and thus far it remains unclear what the future holds for the former federal prosecutor.

Malloy said he did recently take up skiing again after a 20-year hiatus from the sport in order to spend more time with his four sons. He predicted that more skiing will be in his future.

“We’re really happy. I want to finish this job then I want to figure out what we’re going to do next,” Malloy said.