Mary Jodi Rell

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Mary Jodi Rell
Governor of Connecticut
Former officeholder
In office
July 1, 2004 - January 5, 2011
PredecessorJohn G. Rowland
Date of birthJune 16, 1946
Mary Jodi Rell (b. June 16, 1946) is a Republican politician who was elected the 72nd Governor of Connecticut on July 1, 2004; she served in that office until January of 2011. She had been the Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut until Governor John G. Rowland resigned during a corruption investigation. Rell is Connecticut's second female governor.

Rell surprised political observers in early November 2009 with her announcement that she would not seek re-election in 2010.[1]

Early life

Born Mary Carolyn Reavis[2] in Norfolk, Virginia, Rell attended Old Dominion University, but left in 1967 to marry Lou Rell, a US Navy pilot. She moved to Brookfield, Connecticut in 1969 and later attended, but did not graduate from, Western Connecticut State University. She never graduated from college.[3] She received an honorary law doctorate from the University of Hartford in 2001.


Rell served as a Connecticut State Representative for the 107th District in Brookfield from 1985 until 1995. She became Lieutenant Governor after the 1994 election and won re-election in 1998 and 2002. Becoming governor in 2004 after Rowland's resignation, Rell was elected to her own full term on November 7, 2006. She received approximately 710,000 votes, the highest total for any gubernatorial candidate in Connecticut history.[4]

In her first months in office, Rell had enormous approval ratings, with a December 2004 Quinnipiac University poll showing her at 80 percent, the highest rating ever for a governor in Connecticut. She announced in October 2005 she would seek a four-year term in 2006, and was nominated by the Republican Party in May 2006 to seek a full term of her own. Stamford businessman and former state representative Michael Fedele was nominated as her running mate as Lieutenant Governor.

Rell defeated her Democratic opponent, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. in the 2006 Connecticut Gubernatorial election.[5]

Governor of Connecticut

State executive officials
State legislatures

On April 20, 2005, Rell signed into law a bill that made Connecticut the first state to adopt civil unions for same-sex couples without being directed to do so by a court. The law gives homosexual couples all of the 300+ rights, responsibilities, and privileges that the state gives to heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt children, awarding state income tax credits, inheritance rights, and allowing homosexual partners to be considered next-of-kin when it comes to making medical decisions for incapacitated partners, yet does not require employers to give equal insurance benefits as they would to heterosexual couples. The bill was amended to define marriage as "between a man and a woman" after Rell threatened a veto. Rell signed the bill despite some Republican opposition to it, including from the Chairman of the State Republicans at the time.

Rell has subsequently announced that were the legislature to pass a bill establishing gay marriage in Connecticut, that she would veto the bill.[6]

During Rell's administration, Connecticut carried out the first execution in New England since 1960 when serial killer Michael Ross was put to death on May 13, 2005. Rell, who supports the death penalty, declined a request by Ross's lawyers to delay the execution in order for the state legislature to debate eliminating the death penalty. Legally, the Governor of Connecticut cannot commute a death sentence.[7]

On August 25, 2004, Rell made one of her first major decisions as governor when she chose to end the system put into place by the previous administration of housing prisoners in out-of-state corrections facilities. "Instead of sending inmates and tax dollars out of state, we can now more fully utilize correctional facilities and personnel in Connecticut," Governor Rell said. "It makes good policy and good fiscal sense." She continued, "This approach is in the best interests of the inmates, their families and our correction system. It will keep offenders closer to their families, their communities and to the support that is so critical for their successful reintegration into society."[8]

Rell faced another criminal justice issue in July 2007 when two paroled convicts were charged with the home invasion murders of the Petit family in Cheshire. Rell announced a panel would review the state's parole policies and create a study on the topic. She also reiterated her support of capital punishment. On July 31, 2007, she announced tighter parole policies and asked the legislature to define burglary of an occupied dwelling as a violent crime.[9] In September 2007, she announced a moratorium on the parole of violent offenders [10]. State Senator Sam Caligiuri had called for a full moratorium in July. Ironically, the man Rell appointed to chair the parole board, Robert Farr, wrote an op-ed for the Hartford Courant defending the state's parole system.[11] Rell announced in September that she does not believe Connecticut needs to build new prisons, send inmates out of state or expand any of the corrections facilities[12]

In January 2008 Rell reached agreement with legislative leaders on a number of criminal justice reforms which were responsive to the systemic failures prior to the Cheshire home invasion. A special session in late January passed laws to toughen penalties for home invasion, and tighten parole procedures[13] (dead link), but did not pass a Three Strikes Law which Rell, Caligiuri, and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney had favored.

Rell supported the state's constitutional spending cap against pressure from groups favoring expanded state government to bypass the cap. As a result in late June 2006 the state reported a $910 million surplus for the prior year and the state's Rainy Day Fund exceeded $1 billion in deposits for the first time. In 2007 she shocked many of her supporters by proposing a state budget that would greatly exceed the spending cap to pay for added education spending. This program would require raising the state income tax. Republican legislators as well as a few Democrats, including (at least initially) House Speaker James Amann were skeptical of Rell's proposal.[14] An opinion poll showed opposition to raising the income tax, and widespread skepticism regarding Rell's claim her plan would reduce property taxes. As public opinion remained steadfast in opposition to an income tax hike, she changed her mind and withdrew her support for increased educational spending.[15] Rell originally had the support of the Connecticut Education Association for her proposal, but they later switched to the Democratic plan favoring even higher state taxes and no limits on property tax increases.[16] On May 9, 2007, Rell announced increased state revenues might make a tax hike unnecessary in 2007.[17] On June 1, 2007 Rell vetoed a Democratic plan that increased the income tax.[18] A compromise plan passed both houses of the legislature in late June that did not increase the income tax, but raised the cigarette tax and did not limit property taxes. It exceeded the state spending cap.[19]

Rell supports a lawsuit in response to the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Connecticut's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal filed the lawsuit against the US Department of Education to force Congress and President George W. Bush to amend the act because, Rell contends, it would compel Connecticut to spend tens of millions to meet impossibly high standards, even as the state's schools perform at one of the highest levels in the nation. The act requires states to pay for standardized testing every school year, instead of every 2 years. Rell's State Department of Education says the extra testing will provide little new information about students' academic progress.

In 2005, Rell signed into law a Democratic plan to revive the Connecticut estate tax, despite, again, the opposition from most Republicans. The tax applies to estates worth $2 million or more. Critics say the tax will encourage wealthy citizens to leave and take their money with them. In 2006 Rell proposed the phase-out of her own tax, but the Democrat-controlled legislature ignored the proposal.

In 2005 Rell signed into law a campaign finance bill that banned contributions from lobbyists and would provide public financing for future campaigns. The law received support from Arizona Senator John McCain, who campaigned for Rell in Hartford on March 17, 2006.

In June 2006 Rell intervened with New London city officials, proposing that homeowners displaced by the Kelo v. New London court decision be deeded property so they may retain homes in the neighborhood. A settlement was reached with the homeowners on June 30, 2006.[20][21]

In 2007, Rell clashed with Democratic lawmakers over state bonding issues. Explaining that she felt the Democratic proposal spent too much funds that the state cannot afford, she called on them to renegotiate a new package with less spending. In October an agreement was reached that reduced the bond package by $400 million and the Governor signed it into law.

Various Democratic state legislators have questioned Rell's Chief-of-Staff Lisa Moody regarding a December 2005 political fundraiser that Moody invited state commissioners to attend. A number of attendees settled their dispute with the State Election Enforcement Commission by paying fines. Moody was not charged with a violation this because Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano said Moody was not considered a political appointee.[22]

Governor Rell endorsed a "Yes" vote on the ballot question of whether to call a constitutional convention. She indicated that her she supports the convention as a means to bring the rights of initiative & referendum to the state.[23] The convention call is opposed by a coalition of unions and gay rights groups.

Ranked 3rd worst governor

Rell ranked third-worst in the country in a report by the Cato Institute because of the tax increases and rise in spending under her watch. She was the only Republican to receive an F in the report, although three received D grades.

Cato ranked 45 governors based on their spending, revenue and tax policies. Rell received 28 points and an F grade.

Rell’s score put her nine points above bottom-ranked Gov. Ted Kulongoski of Oregon. Top-ranked governors received scores between 74 and 66.[24]


Rell is married and has two grown children. In April 2006 she became a grandmother. Her 2006 campaign ads featured her with her grandson.

External links


  1. Hartford Courant, "Quinnipiac Poll: Bysiewicz Leads Democratic Hopefuls," November 10, 2009
  2. FORMER ODU STUDENT NAMED CONN. GOVERNOR Old Dominion University News Old Dominion University, June 22, 2004
  3. M. Jodi Rell News - The New York Times
  4. Governor/Connecticut
  5. With defeat very clear, Destefano concedes race The Hartford Courant, Nov. 08, 2006
  6. Rell Would Veto Same-Sex Marriage Bill The Hartford Courant, Jan. 27, 2007
  7. Rell Feels Pressure on Both Sides Over Execution by Susan Haigh, Public Defenders in the News, State of Connecticut Division of Public Defender Services
  8. Governor Rell: Governor Rell Announces Prison Inmates Will Return from Virginia
  9. Governor Rell: Governor Rell Announces Major Crackdown on Parole, Supervision of ‘Burglary II’ Offenders
  11. CAPITOL WATCH: A Defense of Parole - From Bob Farr in 1999
  12. Rell Won't Testify on Parole Reforms by Gregory B. Hladky, New Haven Register, Sep. 25, 2007
  14. Reaction to Gov. M. Jodi Rell's two-year budget plan Associated Press, Feb. 08, 2007
  15. Connecticut Voters Like Gov Rell, But Not Tax Hike, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters Mixed On Gay Marriage, Civil Unions Quinnipiac University, Feb. 15, 2007
  16., Connecticut News and Weather - No support for Rell's budget plan
  17. [ Governor Rell: Governor Rell Announces Little or No Tax Increases Will Be Required in Her Proposed Budget
  18. Governor Rell: Governor Rell Vetoes Democratic Tax Plan
  20. Rell: Deeds For Fort Trumbull Homeowners The Hartford Courant, June 02, 2006
  21. Connecticut Gov. Rell Clarifies Her Statement: She Supports Returning Deeds to Family-Occupied Homes by Jon. E. Kramer & Lisa Knepper, Institute for Justice, June 02, 2006
  22. commissioners fined for fundraiser invitations by Erin Cox, WTNH NewsChannel 8, March 08, 2006
  23. [1] "Newsday,""Rell Says She Supports Direct Initiative"]
  24. "Rell ranked third-worst governor," Raising Hale, October 1, 2010