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Jodi Rell

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Title: Jodi Rell  
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Subject: Connecticut gubernatorial election, 2006, Dannel Malloy, John G. Rowland, Lou Rell, Same-sex marriage in Connecticut
Collection: 1946 Births, American Episcopalians, Breast Cancer Survivors, Connecticut Republicans, Governors of Connecticut, Lieutenant Governors of Connecticut, Living People, Members of the Connecticut House of Representatives, Old Dominion University Alumni, People from Brookfield, Connecticut, People from Norfolk, Virginia, Republican Party State Governors of the United States, Western Connecticut State University Alumni, Women State Governors of the United States, Women State Legislators in Connecticut
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Jodi Rell

Jodi Rell
87th Governor of Connecticut
In office
July 1, 2004 – January 5, 2011
Lieutenant Kevin Sullivan
Michael Fedele
Preceded by John Rowland
Succeeded by Dannel P. Malloy
85th Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut
In office
January 4, 1995 – July 1, 2004
Governor John Rowland
Preceded by Eunice Groark
Succeeded by Kevin Sullivan
Connecticut State Representative
from the 107th District
In office
January 1985 – January 1995
Preceded by David W. Smith
Succeeded by B. Scott Santa-Maria
Constituency Represented Brookfield, Bethel (part)
Personal details
Born Mary Carolyn Reavis
(1946-06-16) June 16, 1946
Norfolk, Virginia, United States
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lou Rell (1967–2014, his death)
Alma mater Western Connecticut State University
Profession Political aide
Religion Episcopalian

Mary Jodi Rell (born June 16, 1946) is an American former Republican politician and the 87th Governor of the U.S. state of Connecticut from 2004 until 2011. Rell also served as the state's 85th Lieutenant Governor, during Governor John G. Rowland's administration, until he resigned during a corruption investigation.

Rell was Connecticut's second female Governor, after Ella T. Grasso. Rell stepped down from office at the end of her term, after announcing she would not seek re-election in 2010.


  • Early life 1
  • Early career 2
  • Tenure as Governor 3
    • Rights of same sex couples 3.1
    • Law and order 3.2
    • Government spending 3.3
    • Education 3.4
    • Minimum wage 3.5
    • Health care 3.6
    • Controversy 3.7
  • Political future 4
    • 2008 Presidential Election 4.1
    • 2010 Gubernatorial Election 4.2
  • Electoral history 5
  • Family life 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Born Mary Carolyn Reavis[1] in Norfolk, Virginia, Rell attended Old Dominion University, but left in 1967 to marry Lou Rell, a U.S. Navy pilot. The couple first moved to New Jersey, where Lou Rell took a position as a commercial airline pilot with Trans World Airlines.[2] The family then moved to a 19th Century farmhouse in Brookfield, Connecticut in 1969. Jodi Rell later attended, but did not graduate from, Western Connecticut State University.[2][3] She received honorary law doctorates from the University of Hartford in 2001 and the University of New Haven in 2004. In 2015 she received an honorary doctorate degree of humane letters from Western Connecticut State University. In her early career, she tutored and did substitute work for the Hartford Public Schools.

Early career

Jodi Rell's political career began as a campaign worker for Connecticut state Rep. David Smith during several of his campaigns.[2] Smith, a pilot for Eastern Airlines, declined to seek re-election to a 5th term in the Connecticut House of Representatives in the 1984 election.[2] He encouraged Rell to enter the race to succeed him.[2] Rell was elected in 1984.

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 John Rowland's resignation.

Tenure as Governor

In her first months in office, Rell had high approval ratings, with a December 2004 Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll showing her at 80 percent, the highest rating ever measured by that poll for a governor in Connecticut.[4] 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] She received approximately 710,000 votes, the highest total for any gubernatorial candidate in Connecticut history.[6]

Rights of same sex couples

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 same-sex 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 same-sex 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 had announced that were the legislature to pass a bill establishing gay marriage in Connecticut, that she would veto the bill.[7]

On October 10, 2008, Connecticut courts ruled that the ban of gay marriage violated citizens rights guaranteed to them by the constitution. Governor Jodi Rell responded by saying she would not fight the decision. “The Supreme Court has spoken,” she stated “I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut. However, I am also firmly convinced that attempts to reverse this decision, either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution, will not meet with success.” However, on April 23, 2009, Rell signed a bill into law providing for a gender neutral marriage statute.[8] It also provided for civil unions to be automatically transformed into marriages on October 1, 2010.

Law and order

One of Rell's first major decisions as governor was, on August 25, 2004, 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."[9]

During Rell's administration, Connecticut carried out the first execution in New England since 1960 when serial killer Michael Bruce 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.[10]

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.[11] In September 2007, she announced a moratorium on the parole of violent offenders.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14]

In January 2008, Rell reached agreement with legislative leaders on a number of criminal justice reforms which were responsive to the systemic failures that occurred before the Cheshire home invasion. A special session in late January passed laws to toughen penalties for home invasion and to tighten parole procedures,[15] but did not pass a Three Strikes Law which Rell, Caligiuri, and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney had favored.

Rell reiterated her call for a Three Strikes law on March 31, 2008, following the kidnapping and murder of an elderly New Britain woman, crimes committed by a convicted sex offender recently released from a Connecticut prison.[16]

Government spending

Rell supported the state's constitutional spending cap resisting pressure from groups favoring expanded state government spending which would 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 additional spending for education that would cause the state budget to significantly exceed the spending cap. Paying for the increased spending would require raising the state income tax. Republican legislators and a few Democrats, including (at least initially) House Speaker James Amann, as well as many others, were skeptical when Rell claimed her plan would reduce property taxes.[17] And as public opinion polls showed steadfast opposition to an income tax hike, she changed her mind and withdrew her support for increased educational spending.[18] 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.[19] On May 9, 2007 Rell announced increased state revenues might make a tax hike unnecessary in 2007.[20] On June 1, 2007 Rell vetoed a Democratic plan that increased the income tax.[21] A compromise education 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 nonetheless exceeded the state spending cap.[22]

In 2005, Rell signed into law a plan to revive the Connecticut estate tax. The tax applies to estates worth $2 million or more. Critics said the tax would encourage wealthy citizens to leave and take their money with them.

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.[23][24]

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.

In September 2010, Rell was one of seven governors to receive a grade of F in the Cato Institute's fiscal-policy report card.[25]


Rell supports a lawsuit in response to the federal commencement address at Central Connecticut State University.

Minimum wage

In May 2008, Rell vetoed a bill to raise the minimum wage in the state of Connecticut. The legislature successfully voted to override Rell's veto in June 2008.[26] The legislation raised Connecticut's minimum wage at the time, $7.65 an hour to $8.00 an hour beginning in January 2009, and to $8.25 an hour in 2010.

Health care

In July 2009, the Connecticut legislature overrode a veto by Rell to pass SustiNet, the first significant public-option health care reform legislation in the nation.[27]


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.[28]

Political future

2008 Presidential Election

Governor Rell was one of many Republicans mentioned as a potential candidate for vice president in the 2008 presidential election.[29] The presidential nominee John McCain chose Alaska's Sarah Palin as his running mate instead.

In April 2008, Rell's Lt. Governor, Michael Fedele told the media he expected Rell to run for re-election in 2010.[30] In August 2008 she told reporters she would file an exploratory committee for a 2010 reelection bid.[31] She announced on November 9, 2009, that she would not seek re-election.[32]

2010 Gubernatorial Election

On August 10, 2010, Democratic Party candidate Dan Malloy and Republican Party candidate Tom Foley won their respective party primary gubernatorial elections.[33] Following a close election on November 2, Malloy was declared governor-elect on November 8 and succeeded Rell in office on January 5, 2011.

Electoral history

Connecticut gubernatorial election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican M. Jodi Rell 709,849 63
Democratic John DeStefano, Jr. 398,220 35

Family life

Rell was married to Lou Rell in 1967, with whom she has two grown children, Michael and Meredith. In April 2006, she became a grandmother. Her 2006 campaign advertisements featured her with her grandson.

Rell underwent surgery for breast cancer in December 2004 and has remained healthy since.[34]

Her husband, Lou Rell, died on March 22, 2014 from cancer.[35]

See also


  1. ^ "Former ODU student named Conn. Governor". Old Dominion University News (Old Dominion University). 2004-06-22. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Pazniokas, Mark (2014-05-26). "Lou Rell, 73, was 'first spouse' of Connecticut".  
  3. ^ Medina, Jennifer. "M. Jodi Rell". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-06. 
  4. ^ Quinnipiac University – Office of Public Affairs. "Connecticut (CT) Poll * November 23, 2004 * Connecticut Gov Gets Highest A – Quinnipiac University – Hamden, Connecticut". Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  5. ^ Grant, Steve (2006-11-08). "With defeat very clear, De Stefano concedes race".  
  6. ^ "Governor/Connecticut". America Votes 2006 ( 
  7. ^ "Rell Would Veto Same-Sex Marriage Bill".  
  8. ^ "Topic Galleries". Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  9. ^ Office of the Governor. "Governor Rell: Governor Rell Announces Prison Inmates Will Return from Virginia". Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  10. ^ Haigh, Susan (2004-12-02). "Rell Feels Pressure on Both Sides Over Execution". Public Defenders in the News (State of Connecticut Division of Public Defender Services). Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  11. ^ Governor Rell: Governor Rell Announces Major Crackdown on Parole, Supervision of ‘Burglary II’ Offenders.
  12. ^ Topic Galleries –
  13. ^ CAPITOL WATCH: A Defense of Parole – From Bob Farr in 1999.
  14. ^  
  15. ^ "Topic Galleries". Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  16. ^ Office of the Governor (2008-04-04). "Governor Rell: Statement of Governor M. Jodi Rell on the Home Invasion and Shootings in New Britain". Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  17. ^ "Reaction to Gov. M. Jodi Rell's two-year budget plan".  
  18. ^ "Connecticut Voters Like Gov Rell, But Not Tax Hike, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters Mixed On Gay Marriage, Civil Unions" (Press release).  
  19. ^, Connecticut News and Weather – No support for Rell's budget plan.
  20. ^ Governor Rell: Governor Rell Announces Little or No Tax Increases Will Be Required in Her Proposed Budget.
  21. ^ Governor Rell: Governor Rell Vetoes Democratic Tax Plan.
  22. ^ Topic Galleries –
  23. ^ "Rell: Deeds For Fort Trumbull Homeowners".  
  24. ^ Kramer, John E.; Knepper, Lisa (2006-06-02). "Connecticut Gov. Rell Clarifies Her Statement: She Supports Returning Deeds to Family-Occupied Homes". Cases.  
  25. ^ "How's Your Governor Doing on Taxes and Spending? – National Review Online". National Review Online. 
  26. ^ "Legislature Overrides Minimum Wage Veto".  
  27. ^ [2]
  28. ^ Cox, Erin (2006-03-08). "Rell commissioners fined for fundraiser invitations".  
  29. ^ "Rell For Vice President? – Politics News Story – WFSB Hartford". 2008-02-19. Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  30. ^ "Please, Not Another Raid – Hartford Courant". 2010-04-12. Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  31. ^ "Rell preparing to run". 2008-08-15. Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  32. ^ "Topic Galleries". Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  33. ^ Brusk, Steve; Steinhauser, Paul (August 10, 2010). "McMahon wins Conn. Senate primary; Georgia runoff too close to call".  
  34. ^ "Press Release: Governor Rell Leaves Hospital After Breast Cancer Surgery". 
  35. ^ Mark Pazniokas (22 March 2014). "Lou Rell, 73, was ‘first spouse’ of Connecticut". The CT Mirror. 

External links

  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Campaign contributions for Jodi Rell and John Rowland (2002) at
Connecticut House of Representatives
Preceded by
David W. Smith
Member of the House of Representatives of Connecticut
for the 107th District

Succeeded by
B. Scott Santa-Maria
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert Jaekle
Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut
1994, 1998, 2002
Succeeded by
Michael Fedele
Preceded by
John Rowland
Republican nominee for Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
Thomas Foley
Political offices
Preceded by
Eunice Groark
Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
Kevin Sullivan
Preceded by
John Rowland
Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
Dan Malloy
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