District towns: Chaplin, Mansfield
House Majority Leader
Election history: Merrill was elected in a special election in 1993, succeeding five-term Democrat Jonathan Pelto. Republicans have not mounted a serious challenge since, giving up on a liberal district that is home to UConn.
2008 general election
Denise W. Merrill (D)
8,781 100 percent
Public financing: Merrill did not seek public financing for her campaign.
Background: Merrill out-hustled two colleagues to lock up the post of House majority leader. She succeeded Christopher G. Donovan on the opening day of the legislative session in 2009, when he became speaker. Their partnership had an awkward beginning: Merrill publicly objected to Donovan's decision to offer his predecessor, James Amann, a six-figure staff job. The offer ultimately was rescinded.
With only one session as majority leader, Merrill surprised colleagues in December 2009 by announcing she would seek the Democratic nomination for secretary of the state in 2010. As a former co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, Merrill's decision to leave the legislature in the midst of what is expected to be a multi-year budget crisis was seen as less than a vote of confidence in the institution. Merrill says she simply is taking advantage of a chance to run for an open statewide office after 17 years in the legislature.
Merrill, who lives in Mansfield, is a lawyer and former high school teacher whose district is dominated by the University of Connecticut. Before her election, she was a consultant for 10 years to the state Department of Education.
She has three children.
Committees: Legislative Management
Education: B.A., University of Connecticut; J.D., San Francisco Law School.
2008 Financial Disclosure: Merrill reported no employment outside the legislature. She owns her home in Mansfield Center and two condominiums in the same building in Hartford, one of which generates rental income.
Merrill reported one security with a value exceeding $5,000: an ING index fund.
She filed a confidential addendum to her financial disclosure form listing any debt exceeding $10,000. She declined to disclose the filing, as allowed by law.
A note on financial disclosure: Every spring, officials are required to disclose the ownership of real estate, the source of any income exceeding $1,000 in the previous calendar year and securities worth more than $5,000. They also are required to file an addendum in which they report any debt of more than $10,000; this may by law be kept confidential.
B.A., University of Connecticut! San Francisco Law School
Denise W. Merrill surprised colleagues in the state House of Representatives by giving up the post of majority leader after one term to run for an open office of secretary of the state in 2010.Susan Bysiewicz's ill-fated decision to vacate the office to run for attorney general attracted a large field that was winnowed to two after the Democratic nominating convention: Merrill and Gerry Garcia, a New Haven alderman. Merrill easily won the primary.As secretary of the state, Merrill has pledged to build upon the huge boost in Connecticut voter participation driven by the 2008 presidential campaign."The Obama campaign brought in thousands of students, minorities, and many others who hadn't participated in the system before. I really want to keep that going," she said.She also will be coping with the aftermath of election irregularities in Bridgeport, where registrars failed to order sufficient ballots. Merrill will be in the middle of a legislative debate about setting standards for having sufficient ballots on hand.Merrill was first elected to the House of Representatives from the 54th Assembly District in a special election in November 1993. She quickly became one of the legislature's most vocal advocates for a more graduated income tax, which she has long argued places too heavy of a burden on middle-income families.She spent two terms as co-chairwoman of the powerful Appropriations Committee before succeeding Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, as House majority leader in 2009. By running for statewide office in 2010, Merrill seemed to be delivering a no-confidence vote in the ability of her party's leadership to cope with a budget crisis.But she denied wanting to leave the House. Instead, she said an open race for secretary of the state was too enticing to pass up."There are few duties more important than ensuring that our Democracy is working, that every citizen's rights and privileges are protected, and every vote is counted appropriately," Merrill said.Public Office: State House of Representatives, 1993 to 2011Personal: Merrill is 61, has three adult children and one grandchild. She lives in Mansfield Center.
Won an open seat in 2010, succeeding Susan Bysiewicz. She defeated Republican Jerry Farrell Jr., 584,313 to 484,163.Won the Democratic nomination in a primary, defeating Gerry Garcia, 107,003 to 62,978.
Jerry Farrell Jr.! Denise Merrill! S. Michael DeRosa! Ken Mosher! Michael J. Telesca! Denise Merrill