Prague's service

The state Senate is losing a strong advocate for labor and the elderly with the decision of state Sen. Edith Prague not to seek re-election in the 19th District.

This newspaper has nothing but respect for the long public service of Sen. Prague. First elected as a state representative in 1982, she left office after four terms to accept in 1990 the position of commissioner of the Department of Aging, a perfect fit for a woman who made it a priority to make sure that the needs of the state's senior citizens were never ignored.

When that department fell victim to budget cuts, Sen. Prague made her first run for the 19th District Senate seat 1994. Despite living in Columbia, one of the smallest, northernmost towns in a sprawling district ranging from Ledyard, Montville and Norwich north to southern Windham County, the popular Prague won easily.

She proceeded to win election to nine consecutive terms, leading many political observers to conclude no one else would represent that district until Edith decided not to run again. That time has come.

After a stroke in December, Sen. Prague surprised many by returning in January for the opening of a new legislative session. But the lawmaker, now 86, said the stress associated with another campaign and the responsibilities of office led to her difficult decision not to seek re-election.

In the lead up to the November 2010 election, The Day editorial board met with the senator and expressed our concern about a state deficit approaching a projected $3.5 billion at the time. Surely there would have to be cuts, we asked, even to some of her most cherished programs.

"If you're asking if I am going to balance the budget on the backs of workers or cut human services to the poor and the elderly, you have the wrong person," the senator frankly told us.

Breaking with our past support for the senator, The Day endorsed Republican challenger Sean Sullivan as better able to deal with the fiscal crisis, but our admiration for Sen. Prague was never diminished.

Her position as chairwoman of the Aging Committee and the Labor and Public Employees Committee made her a powerful ally for both groups. She also served as vice chair of the Appropriations Committee, often to southeastern Connecticut's benefit.

And no one was better at constituent service.

We join the public and her colleagues in thanking Sen. Prague for her passionate service and wish her well in the years to come.

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