Williams, Donald E. Jr.


Senate President Pro Tempore

District towns: Brooklyn, Canterbury, Killingly, Mansfield, Putnam, Scotland, Thompson, Windham

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Election history: Williams was elected in a special election in 1993, succeeding Kevin Johnston, who resigned to became the Democratic state auditor. In 2008, Williams was cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party.

2008 general election:

Harry Carboni (R) 9,163 25 percent
Donald E. Williams (D)
25,544 69 percent
Donald E. Williams (WF)
2,189 8 percent

Public financing: Williams received $85,000 in public financing for his campaign under the Citizens’ Election Program and returned a surplus of $4,946.43.

Background: Williams’ ascent was a consequence of Gov. John G. Rowland’s fall. The disgraced governor’s resignation in July 2004 set off a cascade of changes. By constitution, Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell succeeded Rowland and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin Sullivan succeeded Rell. Into the Senate leadership void stepped Williams, a softspoken lawyer and onetime radio newsman from the “Quiet Corner” of Northeastern Connecticut.

Williams has clashed with Rell and lobbyists on issues important to him, such as health reform and childhood nutrition. He corralled the votes to restrict junk food in schools, a bill praised by nutrition advocates and derided by others as paternalistic. And he managed to override Rell’s veto of Sustinet, a program that Williams hopes will be the first step on the road to universal health care.

But any conflict involving Williams always seems to stay at a low simmer. He is so mild-mannered that House Majority Leader Denise Merrill has called him the Clark Kent of the Senate. He is an introvert by nature, an unusual personality type for a legislative leader.

Williams’ tenure as Senate president pro tem has coincided with two strong election cycles for Democrats, who hold 24 of the Senate’s 36 seats, enough to override any vote if the caucus holds together. That has been a problem for Williams, especially on budget and tax issues.

Williams is the former first selectman of Thompson.

He is married and has a daughter. He and his wife live in Brooklyn.

Committees: Legislative Management (co-chair), Executive and Legislative Nominations

Education: B.S., Syracuse University; J.D., Washington and Lee University School of Law

Occupation: Lawyer/legislator

2008 Financial Disclosure: Williams reported no income other than his legislative wages. His wife, is employed by the Putnam schools. They own their home in Brooklyn in Northeastern Connecticut.

Williams owned several mutual funds.

He filed a confidential addendum listing any debts exceeding $10,000. He declined to release the addendum, as is his choice under the law.

A note on financial disclosure: Every spring, officials are required to disclose the ownership of real estate, the source of any income exceeding $1,000 in the previous calendar year and securities worth more than $5,000. They also are required to file an addendum in which they report any debt of more than $10,000; this may by law be kept confidential.