Ellen Camhi, a political power broker in Stamford who helped guide the careers of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other down-state politicians, died Tuesday morning of what a friend says was a massive heart attack.
Camhi, 73, was a member of the Democratic National Committee, rubbing elbows with the nation’s political elites, but her strongest political identity was as Democratic chairwoman in Stamford, a post she held for nearly three decades until her retirement in 2011.
She was an old-school strategist who also became a confidante, if not a godmother, to a generation of politicians who launched their careers from her turf. They included Malloy, who was mayor for 14 years before becoming governor, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Attorney General George Jepsen.
Justice Andrew McDonald of the Connecticut Supreme Court, who was a state senator and Malloy adviser before joining the court this year, says Camhi’s house was a second home during his high school years.
“She used to say she had two biological sons and two adopted sons,” McDonald said.
The adopted sons was a reference to him and Jepsen, who was a state legislator and state senator from Stamford before succeeding Blumenthal as attorney general two years ago. Malloy and his wife, Cathy, were among the many visitors to her second home on Cape Cod.
“Ellen Camhi was a dear friend of mine who tirelessly dedicated herself to her community and to public service. She had charisma and was a passionate leader with character and vision,” Malloy said.
“Ellen was always a lot of fun, but she was also a true leader,” Lt. Nancy Wyman said.
“I was crushed to hear of Ellen’s passing today,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who succeeded another son of Stamford, (though not a Camhi favorite) Joseph Lieberman. “Ellen was a leader not only in Stamford and the Democratic Party, but for our state and country.”