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Hartford — Outspoken and “moderate maverick” state Rep. Steve Mikutel, D-Griswold, announced on Tuesday morning that he would not seek re-election in November because he wants “freedom” and time with his family and friends.
“As someone once said, ‘there is as much freedom in politics as in prison,’” Mikutel said. “There are always demands on you as a politician, demands on all sides. You are not always as free to do what you want to do in the give and take of politics.”
Mikutel, 64, has served in the state House of Representatives for nearly 22 years, most recently on the transportation, commerce and public safety committees. He said he is most passionate about his public safety work. He said he wished the state could have gotten its fiscal house in order during his service and not repealed the death penalty, but in the end, he said, he believes he has served his constituents and the people of Connecticut well.
Mikutel will continue to serve on Griswold’s Board of Selectmen, which he has done for 15 years. He also didn’t rule out returning to state politics in the future.
“I am leaving the Connecticut House of Representatives,” Mikutel said. “I am not leaving politics per say. I intend to continue to be active in my community. I have a lot of knowledge and experience that I want to continue to put to good use helping my community of Griswold.”
With his newfound freedom, Mikutel said, he plans to spend time outdoors in his teak Adirondack chair, which he called the “thinking chair.” He would like to spend more time pondering matters as big as the universe and as small as hummingbirds’ attraction to red flowers, he said. With a glass of red wine and the occasional cigar, Mikutel said, he would “let the world slide for a while.”
He also wants to see his two daughters more than once a year. One lives in London; the other, in Los Angeles, he said.
Mikutel said he doesn’t measure his success by how many bills he got passed in the General Assembly but that he was proud of his ability to get legislation passed his freshman year that allowed nearly bankrupt Jewett City to have a state-appointed receiver. In 1993, the late C. Francis Driscoll, who served as New London’s city manager for many years, became the receiver for Jewett City. After two years under Driscoll's management, the borough was in the black and taxes were reduced by 40 percent, Mikutel said.
“I did not come to Hartford to make friends in high places,” he said. “I came to serve the people and fight for justice.”
There were some issues that Mikutel said he regretted not being able to address, such as getting the state’s fiscal house in better shape, bringing about more bipartisanship and preventing the repeal of the death penalty in 2012.
“My biggest disappointment here was, I don’t know if I should say this, repeal of the death penalty,” Mikutel said. “I believe especially in the face of the Petit murders.”
In 2007, Dr. William A. Petit’s wife and two daughters were murdered in the Cheshire home invasion.
“Life in prison without parole is not a moral substitute for the death penalty,” he said. “I believe that the death penalty is warranted in certain circumstances, not in all and not in all murders, but when there is a heinous crime like that, to me, justice requires that the state take that murder’s life.”
The politics at the state Capitol also have disappointed him, he said. Republicans have some good ideas that the Democrats should listen to, he said. “We don’t have all the answers.”
He added that he hopes the state’s economic situation turns around because he would love for his two daughters to be able to return to the state and find work.
“I am worried about the future, in particular in Connecticut,” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, as lawmakers learned of Mikutel’s decision to not seek another term one said, “Oh no,” while another said he hated to see “a good one go.”
Mikutel said he didn’t know who might fill his shoes.
If he wanted to get involved in that, he said, he would run for office.
Mikutel serves the 45th District, which includes Griswold, Lisbon, Plainfield, Sterling and Voluntown.