House Majority Leader Denise W. Merrill, D-Mansfield, formally began her campaign for secretary of the state today in Mansfield.

“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.

She is seeking to succeed Susan Bysiewicz, who is running for attorney general.

Merrill’s decision weeks ago to jump into the race caught colleagues by surprise. Merrill has been majority leader for only one year.

Some Democrats and Republicans privately have called her decision a vote of no confidence in the ability of the Democratic majority to cope with a fiscal crisis that is projected to last for several years, but Merrill said she was prompted to run by a rare open seat at the state level. Bysiewicz was elected 12 years ago.

Merrill was elected to the House in a special election in 1993. Before becoming majority leader, she was co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee.

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