An emotional Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced Monday she will not run for re-election next year, stepping away from the job after a difficult budget battle with Democrats and an ever-darkening state economic crisis.
"I want to thank the people of Connecticut for the honor of serving as their governor," Rell said, her voice breaking. "I want to thank them for their support and understanding, for their prayers and their returned love."
Saying there was no single reason for her decision, Rell said that the state's budget crisis will require her full attention for the remainder of her term.
"It's not going to be a pretty year," Rell said. "That's why I need to focus right now, my attention on getting our budget in balance and dealing with the legislature."
The 63-year-old Rell said her health and her husband's health are fine.
"I know you're all looking for one particular thing, or a whole host of things," Rell told reporters assembled for a late afternoon news conference. "It isn't just that we had such a difficult, bad budget year, and it's not getting better."
Rell has been Connecticut's governor since 2004, when former Gov. John Rowland resigned in a corruption probe. She was elected to her own term in 2006, becoming the first Republican woman elected the state's chief executive.
Her job approval numbers have dipped in recent Quinnipiac University polls, due mostly to the state's budget problems. A Sept. 16 poll showed 59 percent approve of how she's handling her job while 34 percent disapproved — the lowest approval number during her tenure.
Her all-time high was 83 percent job approval in a Jan. 13, 2005, survey.
Rell's administration has also become the focus of several investigations into the hiring of a University of Connecticut professor to oversee a two-year, $220,000 project aimed at streamlining state government. Democrats say e-mails first obtained by The Day of New London show that at least part of the work conducted by Professor Ken Dautrich, former director of the school's polling institute, was done to help the governor politically.
Her departure from the 2010 race leaves Republicans without a potential candidate with strong statewide credentials and gives Democrats their best opportunity in years to seize the governor's office. House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero of Norwalk, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield and Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, a political unknown before being named Rell's running mate in 2006, have said they may run.
Among Democrats, businessman Ned Lamont, who became a national political figure in 2006 by defeating Sen. Joseph Lieberman in the Democratic Senate primary, announced last week he was forming an exploratory committee.
Former House Speaker James Amann has already declared his candidacy, and exploratory committees have been formed by Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, state Sen. Gary LeBeau and Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi.02.