Urban announces she will not seek 10th term in General Assembly

In this February 2017 Day file photo, State Rep. Diana Urban, center, chats with State Rep. Johathan Steinberg, right, and State Rep. Brenda Kupchick before Gov. Dannel P. Malloy arrives to present his proposed state budget to a joint session of the general assembly at the State Capitol in Hartford, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
In this February 2017 Day file photo, State Rep. Diana Urban, center, chats with State Rep. Johathan Steinberg, right, and State Rep. Brenda Kupchick before Gov. Dannel P. Malloy arrives to present his proposed state budget to a joint session of the general assembly at the State Capitol in Hartford, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, announced Sunday that she will not seek a 10th term this fall but instead will support former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz’s bid for governor with plans to become her economic adviser if she is elected.

In that position, Urban said, Bysiewicz has told her they would implement results based budgeting for the state, something Urban has been trying to do with limited success while in the General Assembly. RBA requires programs to show data that they are successful to be funded.

Also on Sunday, Stonington Democratic selectwoman Kate Rotella announced that she will run for Urban’s 43rd District state representative seat this fall. Urban said she asked Rotella to run for the seat and will run her campaign.

"My whole team is her team," Urban said.

Urban said that she thought she would stay in the legislature “forever” but that changed with her 2016 marriage to Jonathan Walters. She said she wants to spend more time with her husband and grandchild and work on initiatives she is passionate about such as RBA and Desmond’s law.

The latter, which Urban got the legislature to pass, allows judges to assign volunteer legal advocates, such as University of Connecticut law school students and pro bono attorneys to assist prosecutors in compiling information in animal cruelty cases.

She said she found busy prosecutors often do not have the resources to compile reports from police, animal control officers, veterinarians and others needed to prosecute the cases that result in offenders being put into diversionary programs. Urban has stressed that research shows those who commit acts of animal abuse are also very likely to be involved in domestic violence, elder abuse and school shootings.

Urban said she is currently helping advocates get the law passed in other states.

“I want this to be nationwide,” she said.

In 2011, Urban also was able to get a law passed that requires state, regional and municipal animal control officers and Department of Children and Families employees to report to the Department of Agriculture commissioner when they reasonably suspect that an animal is being treated cruelly or neglected.

During her time in the legislature Urban has also been known for working on pension reform and issues that affect children and animals. As co-chairwoman of the legislature’s Children’s Committee, she also implemented the Children’s Scorecard, which evaluates the success of state programs for children.

It was also Urban, after a series of stories by The Day, who pushed the state to investigate how Amistad America had spent more than $9 million of funding on the schooner Amistad with little documentation and lost its nonprofit status for failing to file three years of tax returns.

That resulted in a state audit of Amistad America and the state taking over the ship and selling it to a new entity. Urban also pushed unsuccessfully to reimburse the many individuals, businesses and organizations that were owed more than $2 million by Amistad America. She also has called on the state to end its annual funding for the ship, which is slated to occur in 2018-19.

Bysiewicz faces a crowded field of Democrats who will be trying to secure their party's endorsement to run for governor. Among the seven potential candidates are Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

Urban said that when she heard Bysiewicz had formed an exploratory committee, she called Bysiewicz to say she wanted to support her and be her economic adviser.

Urban said she could have “hedged her bets,” run for re-election and then resigned if Bysiewicz won. But she said she did not what to do that.

“I’m jumping in with both feet,” she said, adding that Rotella agreeing to run for her seat made the decision easier.

"I’m passionate about my district. I wouldn’t be leaving unless I knew the person coming in could do the job,” she said about Rotella. “And I know she can do it.”

Urban added that she would help Rotella with the transition of being a state legislator, including introducing her to legislative leaders and committee chairmen. As of yet, there is no announced Republican candidate for the 43rd District, which represents Stonington and North Stonington. Urban typically ran unopposed or easily defeated her opponents.

Rotella, who lives in Mystic, said Urban called her a week ago to meet. At that meeting, Rotella said her friend told her she was not going to run and "you're going to take my job."

She agreed after talking to her teenage son. Rotella's husband, Peter, a local attorney, died in 2016 of cancer. Ironically, she said, it was her husband who had thought of someday running for Urban's seat.

As for why she is running, Rotella said, "I've always wanted to make a difference, whether it's as a purchasing agent or a policy person. I understand we move slowly in government. But we need to get along. We can't continue to argue just for the sake of arguing. In Stonington, the last three years I've been able to work across party lines."

"Diana is passionate and not afraid to speak up, and that's the way I am," said Rotella, who scrutinizes expenditures that come before the selectmen and has been known to ask for approval delays to get her questions answered.     

Rotella is the former purchasing agent for the Town of Waterford and currently works as the purchasing manager for the Capital Region Education Council in Hartford. In addition to her duties as a selectwoman, she is the vice chairman of the Stonington K-12 School Building Committee, which oversees the ongoing $67 million renovation and expansion of two elementary schools.

Rotella said she intends to complete her two-year term as selectwoman, which would end about nine months after her first legislative term would start.

"I've made a commitment to the voters and I need to finish that," she said.

Rotella said she does not see a problem juggling all her responsibilities since the school project and her selectmen duties will be coming to an end as she would be getting started in the legislature. She said her office in Hartford is five minutes from the Capitol and she would have the flexibility to be there during the session. 

"Diana is a friend. She's done great things. I won't disappoint her," she said.



Democratic Stonington Selectwoman Kate Rotella. (Day file photo)
Democratic Stonington Selectwoman Kate Rotella. (Day file photo)


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