Patricia Billie Miller took the oath as Connecticut’s newest state senator Monday, becoming the first woman and first person of color elected to the Senate from Stamford and placing two Black women in the Senate for the first time.
As other speakers described the history of the moment, Miller closed her eyes and shook her head, momentarily overcome. She leaned in to her close friend, Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, another member of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.
Miller, 65, who won a special election last week after a dozen years in the House of Representatives, took the oath from Secretary of the State Denise Merrill outside the state Capitol. She succeeds Carlo Leone, who resigned to join the Lamont administration.
Her decision to run for the Senate was not automatic. In the House, she chaired the bonding subcommittee of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding committee, an influential assignment. But she said history beckoned.
“It did play a role,” Miller said. “A woman had never sat in the seat, a person of color had never sat in the seat. And I felt that was an opportunity that I couldn’t let pass, because we never know when that seat would open again, that opportunity would come again.”
On the night Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Miller became the first Black person elected to the General Assembly from Stamford, becoming a footnote to the election of the first African American to the presidency.
Miller spoke of history Monday — and of local politics and friendships. Christel Truglia, who held the 145th House District seat for two decades before Miller, was in the small crowd gathered in the sun on the south side of the Capitol, a COVID-19 precaution.
Truglia’s late husband, Anthony, once held the 27th Senate District seat Miller now occupies. He was killed in a car accident in 1987. Truglia’s son, also named Anthony, was Miller’s first campaign treasurer.
“This is such an honor to walk in your shoes and to follow you and your husband,” Miller said, turning to Truglia, who stood with her son and daughter.
Attorney General William Tong of Stamford, who served with Miller in the House and considers her a close friend, said the 27th Senate District has had “a lineup of heavy hitters.”
Other previous occupants: Richard Blumenthal, the U.S. senator and former attorney general; George Jepsen, the former state Senate majority leader and attorney general; and Andrew McDonald, the Supreme Court justice.
Stamford is the fastest growing of the state’s four largest cities. With an estimated population of nearly 130,000, it trails only Bridgeport and is likely to vie with New Haven as the second-largest when the 2020 Census is released.
With significant minority political bases, Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford have long elected Black Democrats to the Senate. Both of Bridgeport’s senators are Black, as are one of the two senators from New Haven and Hartford.
All of Stamford and its suburb of Darien are within the 27th District, making it wealthier and less racially diverse than the Senate districts based in the other three cities.
Stamford is 14% Black, 27% Hispanic and 8.6% Asian.
Stamford has twice the land area of Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford, and it has benefitted from its commuter rail connection to New York. With a median household income of $93,000, it is the wealthiest of the four cities.