Dr. Stephen Leach and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill embrace after the announcement. (CTNewsJunkie photo)

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill will step down at noon on Thursday to spend more time with her ailing husband, according to a Tuesday report from the Associated Press. 

Merrill, a Democrat, announced last summer she would not seek re-election. Her departure this week will end her term about six months sooner than expected. In a statement released late Tuesday, Merrill said it had been an honor to serve in public office including the legislature for nearly three decades.

“It is after long and serious consideration and with a heavy heart that I have decided to resign my office as Secretary of the State at the end of this month,” Merrill said. “My family’s health, and in particular my husband’s diagnosis of a degenerative disease, requires my full attention at this time and cannot wait the six months left to finish out my term.”

According to state law, Gov. Ned Lamont will name a replacement for the remainder of Merrill’s term. Voters will choose a new secretary of the state at the polls in November. 

Merrill told the AP she needed to devote more time to caring for her husband, Dr. Stephen Leach, who has for years struggled with Parkinson’s disease along with other, more recent health issues. 

Lamont released a statement Tuesday evening calling Merrill a dear friend whose resignation was a loss for Connecticut voters. 

“It can’t go without noting that our most recent statewide election resulted in the highest number of registered voters casting ballots in our state’s history, which is a credit to Denise’s efforts to encourage voter participation,” Lamont said. “Denise has delivered results, and our state is stronger because of her efforts. My prayers are with her and her family, and I thank her for everything she has given to Connecticut.”

After 17 years as a state representative from Mansfield, Merrill was first elected to the constitutional office in 2010. During that time, she steadily advocated for easing access to the ballot and updating Connecticut’s election systems.