(Updated 6:25 p.m. with statement from Senate President Donald Williams)(Updated 6:15 p.m. with statement from Gov. Rell.)
Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced late Monday that she will not seek reelection in 2010.
“After much soul-searching and discussion with my family,” she said at a 5 p.m. press conference at the State Capitol, “I have decided not to seek re-election next year.”
Rell has held record high approval ratings in the state, reaching a peak of 83 percent in January 2005. A September Quinnipiac University poll showed that 59 percent of state residents approved of her job performance.
Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele has already stated he would run if Rell did not, and a number of other state Republicans are expected to join the race in the coming weeks and months.
Senate President Donald Williams, a Democrat, thanked Rell for her years of service on behalf of Connecticut residents.
“I wish her and her family well as they begin the next chapter of their lives. In the meantime, the best thing we can do for the next governor – whoever it is – is to work together to grow jobs and help stabilize our economy,” he said in a statement.
Rell first took office in 2004, after then-Gov. John Rowland resigned as a result of a corruption scandal.
“Thank you for joining me this afternoon. I want to begin by thanking everyone who made our Day of Caring and Compassion this past Saturday such a success.
“In particular, I want to thank our firefighters, who opened 15 fire stations across the state to serve as collection centers. They did a fabulous job, as did Girl Scouts, volunteers from FoodShare and Connecticut Food Bank and many, many others.
“Thousands of pounds of nonperishable food were collected and a great many of our families who are struggling in this economy will be helped because of everyone’s caring and compassion. The generosity of the people of Connecticut never ceases to amaze me.
“Second, I would like to share with you the news that – after much soul-searching and discussion with my family – I have decided not to seek re-election next year.
“The past five years I have had the honor – the incredible honor – to serve as the 87th Governor of Connecticut.
“I came in at a troubling time in our state’s history. We had been through much and we needed a new start, a renewed sense of faith in public officials and a recommitment to integrity in our government. Working together, we steadied our state and we passed landmark ethics reform and campaign finance reform legislation. I am very, very proud of that.
“I am humbled by the memories of my first days in office as I held ‘open houses’ all across the state so that the people of Connecticut could meet their new Governor. I met thousands of people at those open houses – and I have met thousands more during the last five years. It’s the best part of my job – meeting and helping people.
“From the beginning, I have always sought to be a citizen-Governor. At one open house, after standing for hours, I finally kicked off my heels and stood in my stocking feet greeting people. I’ll never forget the woman who said, while looking at my feet, ‘That’s why we like you – you’re normal; you’re like us.’ That was the highest compliment she could have given me.
“I’ll also never forget the reaction of people as they see me waiting in line with them at the grocery story or running out of the dry cleaners or, yes, shopping at Marshall’s, my favorite store. They’ll often say, ‘It’s nice to know our Governor shops like we do.’ I do. I always have. And I always will.
“I have never lost sight, from the first day – July 1, 2004, up to today – that I hold the public’s trust and that my job is to listen, to act, to lead and to fight – for that hurried mom with toddlers in tow who is waiting in line with me at the grocery store, or the tired father I see at the dry cleaners.
“It’s not the pundits or the politicians who live and breathe for party politics and constant campaigning that drive me serve and to work hard. It’s the people of Connecticut … .
“The gay couple who hugged me at Stafford Motor Speedway after I signed the first-in-the-nation voluntarily passed civil unions bill.
“The thousands of people from all over the state who called or sent cards or prayed on my behalf as I faced and beat breast cancer.
“The mother and father whose hands I held at the funeral of their child who gave their life in military service overseas.
“The children, bursting with energy and optimism, as we opened a new charter school or put in a new computer lab in their library.
“The woman whose cheeks were wet from tears of appreciation and relief as she signed up for the Charter Oak program – she finally had health insurance coverage after years without it.
“The commuter who shook my hand and quietly thanked me for all my efforts in finally addressing our mass transit needs with hundreds of new and refurbished rail cars, updated rail stations, new buses and more frequent service.
“The college students who have seen their public colleges and universities literally transformed before their eyes – both in and out of the classroom. The quality of academics has never risen so dramatically as in recent years – and so have the number of new and improved buildings at every school in our system.
“The state troopers who are better-trained and better-equipped than ever before – and better-staffed than in years. And they are working with a new Department of Homeland Security that leads the nation in preparedness.
“And our veterans: I look in the proud eyes of our veterans – whom we will honor tomorrow and must honor every day – as they see the incredible changes we have made at the Veterans Home and Hospital in Rocky Hill. Enhanced programs and services and a brand new, state-of-the-art hospital to serve those who courageously served to protect our freedoms.
“Yes, I have been honored – truly honored – to meet these and the other amazing people of Connecticut. To listen to them, to laugh with them, to cry with them, to celebrate triumphs with them and to always remember that I work for them.
“I love being Governor and I love the people of Connecticut. The challenges of the job have been – and continue to be – many; the rewards incalculable.
“But at some point you know inside that it is time to begin a new chapter in life.
“It was 25 years ago this month that I was first elected to office. Ten years as a state Representative from Brookfield. Ten years as Lieutenant Governor. Five years thus far as Governor. It’s time.
“I want to thank my family and my staff – for everything. I am blessed.
“I want to thank the people of Connecticut for allowing me the honor of serving as their Governor. I want to thank them for their support and their understanding, for their prayers and their returned love.
“I need their continued support and understanding and their prayers for the next 14 months. I still have a lot of governing to do – a lot of difficult issues to face in these tough economic times.
“I will not be a candidate – but I am the Governor and the work continues. Thank you.”