Denise Merrill

Public Office: State House of Representatives, 1993 to present

Current Position: State House majority leader

Background: Denise W. Merrill is hoping her bid to become Connecticut’s next secretary of the state will bring her back to the subject that first drew her into politics.

A lawyer and voter advocate, Merrill had worked with the League of Women Voters and other election advocacy groups developed civics curricula and public school youth projects on law and citizenship before setting that aside to serve nearly two decades in the General Assembly.

Merrill has pledged to build upon the huge boost in Connecticut voter participation driven by the 2008 presidential campaign.

“The Obama campaign brought in thousands of students, minorities, and many others who hadn’t participated in the system before. I really want to keep that going,” she said.

First elected to the House of Representatives from the 54th Assembly District in a November 1993 special election in November 1993, Merrill quickly became one of the legislature’s most vocal advocates for a more graduated income tax, which she has long argued places too heavy of a burden on middle-income families.

Rising through the ranks of the House Democratic Caucus as members of the party’s liberal wing began to dominate in the mid-2000s, Merrill served on the Education, Higher Education, and Government, as vice chair for two terms of the Administration and Elections Committees and spent two terms as co-chairwoman of the powerful Appropriations Committee before succeeding Meriden Democrat Christopher G. Donovan as House majority leader in 2009.

Merrill’s decision to run for secretary of the state was something of a surprise since she had only been majority leader for a year, but at the time of her announcement she said she was prompted to run by a rare open seat. “There are few duties more important than ensuring that our Democracy is working, that every citizen’s rights and privileges are protected, and every vote is counted appropriately,” Merrill said.

Education: BA, University of Connecticut; San Francisco Law School

Personal: Merrill is 61, has three adult children and one grandchild. She lives in Mansfield Center.