More than a few state lawmakers cast what could be the last votes of their careers Wednesday as the 2022 legislative session drew to a close and over two dozen legislators prepared to retire or move on from their positions.
A true accounting of departing lawmakers won’t be possible until at least after the state nominating conventions this weekend. For some legislators, the decision will likely hinge on the fate of their bids for higher office.
However, on Wednesday leaders of the four legislative caucuses knew of at least 24 members who had announced their plans to forgo a campaign for another term in their General Assembly seats. That breaks down to 11 House Democrats, nine House Republicans, two Senate Democrats and four Senate Republicans.
“It is probably one of the larger years in terms of voluntary retirements,” Senate President Martin Looney said Wednesday.
Looney, who was first elected to the legislature in 1980, said the voluntary turnover fell well short of the General Assembly exodus in 1992 after the “grueling” debate over the adoption of the state income tax.
“It was highly controversial and tense and I think some people felt they had been through a meat grinder,” Looney said.
House Speaker Matt Ritter said he believed the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic had perhaps caused some members to reassess their priorities and plans for the future.
“I’ve had people tell me in my private life from work, ‘I didn’t sign up for this. It’s different from what it was and it was a long couple years.’ Or, ‘I’m at a point in my life where I got through it and I want to travel, I want to go do things,’” Ritter said. “I think that did play a role.”
Sen. Paul Formica, an East Lyme Republican retiring after around 31 years in state and local government, said wanting to go do other things factored into his bittersweet decision to leave.
“I have a new grandbaby. My grandson Lexington was born so I want to be free to spend some time there and I have a wonderful new love in my life and maybe it’s time to travel and enjoy some of that,” Formica said. “I’m not getting any younger.”
Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly said he believed the other retiring members of caucus, Sens. Dan Champagne of Vernon, Craig Miner of Litchfield, and Kevin Witkos of Canton had similar reasons for moving on.
“It’s where you are in life at the time,” Kelly said. “I just know I have seven grandkids and you just start looking at things a little bit differently and I think that has something to do with it.”
Others are moving into an earlier phase of their lives. Sen. Will Haskell, a 26-year-old Democrat from Westport, said he was not seeking re-election so he could move closer to his fiance and begin to study law at New York University. Haskell said he hoped to someday return to politics and believed more young people should seek higher office.
“When we’re talking about things like college affordability, things like climate change which will impact my generation, when we’re talking about what it’s like to participate in a school shooter drill, I think that young people really do have a lot to offer to the public policy process,” Haskell said.
A pair of retiring representatives, Groton Democrat Joe de la Cruz and Litchfield Republican David Wilson, told the chamber on the opening day of the session that the job’s low pay contributed to their decision to leave office. Their comments spurred a conversation that led to the General Assembly voting for the first time in more than two decades to raise members’ base salary, this time from $28,000 to $44,000.
House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said he was encouraged that many of the members choosing to leave his caucus were doing so in order to seek other elected positions.
“So it’s not as if they’re reitriing, they’re saying to the state of Connecticut that I want to do more. We’re seeing a good bench being built up for Republicans in general,” Candelora said.
Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, was one of those members. After 13 years in the House, she declined to seek another term in favor of running for probate judge in Beacon Falls, Middlebury, Naugatuck, and Prospect.
“I don’t know if anyone is ever ready to move on, to be completely honest,” Rebimbas said. However, she saw the probate position as a good opportunity and one that could provide more stability for her family. “I’ve got little ones and my parents are elderly. So having a little predictability in my life is good.”
House lawmakers who have announced their decision not to seek another term include:
-Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, chair of the Human Services Committee
-Rep. David Arconti, D-Danbury, energy committee chair
-Rep. Harry Arora, R-Greenwich, ranking member on the labor committee who is running for treasurer
-Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol
-Rep. Joe De la Cruz, D-Groton
-Rep. Laura Devlin, R-Fairfield, who is running for lieutenant governor
-Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard, ranking member on the Appropriations Committee who is running for the 2nd Congressional District
-Rep. Robin Green, R-Marlborough, ranking member on the public safety committee
-Rep. John Hampton, D-Simsbury
-Rep. Stephen Harding, R-Brookfield, ranking member of the Environment Committee
-Rep. Chris Perone, D-Norwalk
-Rep. Emmett Riley, D-Norwich
-Rep. Hilda Santiago, D-Meriden, who is running for secretary of the state
-Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, the finance committee chair who is running for comptroller
-Rep. Brian Smith, D-Colchester
-Rep. Charlie Stallworth, D-Bridgeport
-Rep. Michael Winkler, D-Vernon
-Rep. David Wilson, R-Litchfield, ranking member on the Aging Committee
-Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien, who is running for secretary of the state
Senate lawmakers have announced their decision not to seek another term include:
-Sen. Mary Daugherty Abrams, D-Meriden, chair of the Public Health Committee
-Sen. Dan Champagne, R-Vernon, ranking member of the public safety committee
-Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, chair of the Transportation Committee
-Sen. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, ranking member of the Appropriations and Environment Committees
-Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, ranking member on the General Law, Higher Education, and Internship Committees