Rep. Linda Orange, D-Colchester, a popular presence at the State Capitol as a staffer and lawmaker for nearly 30 years, announced Friday she has cancer and will retire from the General Assembly, effective Feb. 1.
“I have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and will need all of my focus and energy devoted to my treatment,” she said. “To my friends and colleagues: we have laughed a lot, we have agreed and disagreed and we have always come together to reach a compromise. I am very proud of the work that we have done together.”
Orange worked at the General Assembly for four years before her election in 1996 to the 48th District of Colchester, Lebanon, Mansfield and Windham, a mix of rural and suburban communities, where the constituents include ardent gun owners and University of Connecticut faculty.
As a leader of the legislature’s sportsman’s caucus, she voted against the sweeping gun-control legislation passed in response to the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown. But overall, she was a reliable Democratic vote on budgets, minimum-wage increase and criminal-justice reforms.
Her manner with colleagues is brassy and breezy. As House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz and House Majority Leader Matt Ritter noted in a joint statement: “Her voice carries…and carries. But her voice also makes you smile. Her humor and incredible commitment always come through the loudest.”
When Orange took her seat, the speaker of House was Ritter’s father, Thomas D. Ritter. Orange is now a deputy speaker.
“She means a lot to my family,” Ritter said. “We’re all thinking of her and praying for her to be well again.”
“Virtually anyone who has met Linda Orange would agree that she is the sunshine of the State Capitol – equal parts optimistic, caring, humorous, and joyful, and her warmhearted laugh fills the room,” Gov. Ned Lamont said. “She is a vocal advocate on behalf of her constituents in eastern Connecticut and remains one of the most ardent champions supporting our state’s first responders.”
Her 48th House District seat would become vacant on Feb. 1. Lamont will have 10 days to issue a write for a special election, which must be held 46 days later. It will be one of three special elections to fill House vacancies.
Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-Fairfield, and Rep. Fred Camillo, R-Greenwich, won elections as first selectmen of their communities on Tuesday, and both must resign under the terms of their respective charters.
Democrats currently have a 91-60 majority in the House.