Secretary of the State Denise Merrill. mark pazniokas / file photo
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill mark pazniokas / file photo

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill ended retirement speculation Friday by declaring her candidacy for re-election to a third term in an office that makes her Connecticut’s chief elections official.

“Now more than ever, we need to protect voting rights and stand up for our democracy,” Merrill said in a statement. “There are voices calling for roiling back hard-won voting rights. Their actions would erode our shared democracy. I say to them: ‘Not on my watch.’ We‘ve come too far to turn back now.”

Rep. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, who has been raising money in an exploratory campaign for secretary of the state, said he would end his efforts and endorse Merrill, a fellow Democrat.

“I said I would only run if Denise did not, and I meant it,” Lesser said. “She’s done an extraordinary job.”

Merrill filed papers to create a candidate committee Friday, allowing her to begin fundraising.

Merrill is the first of the state’s constitutional statewide officers, all Democrats, to declare for re-election and the second to make their intentions known for 2018: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy confirmed in April this term would be his last.

Attorney General George Jepsen has ruled out a run for governor and is known to be planning a campaign for a third term as attorney general.

Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo has opened an exploratory campaign for governor, though he would defer to Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman should she run. Treasurer Denise L. Nappier, who was first elected in 1998, has not announced her plans.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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