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Maynard will not seek re-election; Somers to seek GOP endorsement; Urban interested

Mystic — Three hours after Democrat State Sen. Andrew Maynard of Stonington announced Wednesday he would not seek re-election to a sixth term this fall after suffering two serious head injuries in the past 19 months, former Town of Groton Mayor Heather Somers announced at a planned event that she would seek the Republican nomination to run for Maynard's 18th District seat.

Just before 2 p.m., a few hours after The Day inquired about Maynard's plans in light of Somers' expected announcement at 5 p.m., the Senate Democrats' spokesman Adam Joseph issued a statement in which Maynard said he would not seek re-election.

"It has been an honor to serve in the Senate on behalf of my neighbors and the people of the 18th District," Maynard stated. "I want to thank everyone for their prayers and well wishes, and I am grateful to live in such a beautiful and supportive community. I have made the decision to not seek reelection. There is much work to do this legislative session, and I am committed to continuing to work to create jobs, grow the economy and balance our budget."

Maynard has declined all interview requests since July 2014 when he suffered a traumatic brain injury during a late-night fall from an outdoor staircase at his Stonington home.

On Jan. 14, Maynard sustained a concussion when his car struck an SUV while he was driving the wrong way on Route 32 in Waterford on his way home from the state Capitol.

Waterford police are expected to release the results of their investigation, which is being reviewed by New London County State's Attorney Michael Regan, as early as later this week.

Maynard appeared briefly at the opening of the General Assembly session on Feb 3.

About 125 Republicans from across the region packed the meetinghouse at Olde Mistick Village late Wednesday afternoon for Somers' announcement.

They not only cheered her remarks but applauded when Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons, a Republican and friend of Maynard, thanked the senator for his service.

Somers later said she has been a friend of Maynard's since they grew up together in Noank and she wishes him nothing but the best and a quick recovery.

Somers began her remarks by pointing out the many attributes of not only southeastern Connecticut but the state as a whole, adding that "Connecticut was once the embodiment of the American dream — robust in employment and unending opportunity. Today, sadly, many towns in Connecticut have fallen prey to a failing economy made worse by out-of-touch politicians in Hartford. Connecticut families are pulling up roots and moving to other states to find that opportunity that once existed here. The young leave to find jobs and older residents leave for a more affordable place to live and retire."

"I do not exaggerate, however, when I tell you that much of what makes our region great is directly threatened by the never-ending fiscal crisis in Hartford, the result of one-party rule in our legislature and the job crushing agenda put in place by Governor Malloy and the Hartford insiders," she said, continuing that at this "critical time of uncertainty, eastern Connecticut, more than ever, needs a strong voice fighting for our community."

She said that "voice must work across party lines to fight for our region, just as it must stand up to the figures in Hartford who would sell southeastern Connecticut down the road to serve other interests."

She said the region needs a senator who understands the challenges being faced by the business community and the need to create a "welcoming, strong climate for business to flourish." As a business owner, she said, she understands those issues.

Somers served five terms on the Groton Town Council and was mayor from 2012 to 2014. She also ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2014.

She currently serves on the state Commission for Economic Development and helped start a medical device manufacturing firm in Willimantic that has grown from three to 100 jobs.

Somers promised her supporters that she would "be a measured voice of reason in the chaotic struggle against the disaster created by Hartford insiders, one party rule and the failed leadership of Governor Malloy."

During the introductory remarks Wednesday, Olde Mistick Village co-owner Joyce Resnikoff said she was endorsing Somers not because she is a woman but because she is a business person who would represent the region.

"We need a winner. We need it for Connecticut," she said. "We do need change."

After her remarks, Somers said she would begin campaigning immediately in all eight towns in the district, some of which she acknowledged she was not as familiar with as others.

The 18th District comprises Groton, Griswold, North Stonington, Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling and Voluntown.

Starting her campaign gives her a head start over whoever is now chosen to replace Maynard as the Democratic candidate.

The question is who that candidate will be.

State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, who is serving her eighth term in the General Assembly, said Wednesday that "of course" she is interested in being her party's candidate.

Urban is known for pressing state officials to look into how Amistad America spent $9 million in state funding, championing issues that affect children and continuing to call for the state to implement a form of budgeting in which only programs that can produce data that shows they are effective receive funding.

At this point Urban said she is focused on the current legislative session that ends in May and making sure the bills her Children's Committee is supporting get approved.

"So it will take some time for me to make a decision if I will run," she said.

Another of those rumored to be under consideration for the Democratic nomination before Maynard announced he would not seek re-election was Scott Bates of Stonington. Bates said Wednesday he would not be running for the seat.

Bates said he is instead focused on his work with the Connecticut Port Authority and other endeavors after recently leaving a job with a Washington, D.C., think tank.

As one of the two Democratic State Central Committee members for the 18th District, Bates said he is sure his party will have a strong candidate who will take the campaign to every community in the district.

"Senator Maynard has given us a lot to work with. He has a 10-year record of fighting for the people of southeastern Connecticut. It's a record we can be proud of," Bates said.

j.wojtas@theday.com

Twitter: @JoeWojtas

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