With six minutes to spare, Sen. Rob J. Kane, R-Watertown, and Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Bloomfield, handed in resignation letters Wednesday morning, consummating a carefully choreographed deal freeing each legislator to accept a new job while maintaining the balance of power in an evenly divided Senate.
Senate lawyers waited outside Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office to see that the resignations were delivered before the session opened at 10 a.m., which Merrill called the deadline for ensuring the two men could legally accept other state employment: Kane is expected to be named Republican state auditor, Coleman a judge.
A staffer delivered Kane’s letter. Coleman arrived in person and signed a letter waiting for his signature. Both letters were accepted simultaneously by Merrill’s office at 9:54 a.m., leaving the Senate with 17 Democrats, 17 Republicans and two vacancies.
The state constitution bars legislators from accepting a job in another branch of government during their two-year terms. State law imposes further restrictions.
As the CT Mirror reported Tuesday night, Republicans and Democrats struck a deal for the paired resignations to maintain the balance of power. The seats are almost certain to be retained by their current parties in special elections.
“As you might expect, serving in the legislature was one of the greatest honors of my life. I made a lot of good friends here,” Coleman said. “So it’s a very difficult decision, but I had discussions with the appropriate people, including my wife. I guess the ultimate conclusion is this was time.”
Coleman is 65, meaning he could not afford to wait another two years before seeking a judicial appointment. The mandatory retirement age for judges in Connecticut is 70.
He now has to clear a review by the Judicial Selection Commission. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy only can nominate lawyers to the bench who have been cleared by the commission.
“The legislative responsibilities for me were so time-consuming, there are some details I should have attended to. Knowing I wanted to become a judge, I should have gone through the judicial selection process, probably years ago,” Coleman said.
Malloy lavishly praised Coleman on Wednesday without promising him a judicial nomination.
“During 11 years in the House and 22 years in the Senate, Eric Coleman has been a relentless advocate for his constituents and his city,” Malloy said. “As a legislator, he earned the trust and confidence of his colleagues for more than three decades in the General Assembly. The people of Connecticut can be grateful for his efforts in reducing crime, reforming criminal justice system, and restoring trust in our system. We all would be well advised to look to the example of Sen. Coleman’s demeanor, passion and attention to detail.”
Rep. Eric C. Berthel, R-Watertown, says he will run for Kane’s seat. Rep. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, says he will seek Coleman’s.