Politicians and the public lauded state Rep. Linda Gentile Monday after her office issued a statement saying she will not seek re-election in November.
Click here to read the statement issued by Gentile Monday.
Click here for reaction from Valley political types.
In her statement, Gentile noted how her family life has changed since she was first elected to the state House of Representatives nearly 14 years ago.
Now’s the time to step more fully into her role as grandmother, the Ansonia resident said.
“Just recently, I was looking at family pictures and campaign memorabilia. When I first ran for this position, I was much younger, much thinner, and had no grandchildren. I look at my life now and I realize that it is time,” she said. “It is time to step back and enjoy the extra time that I will have with John, who has been by my side every step of the way, Jonathan and Sarah and Sarah and Chris, who have lovingly supported me from the beginning, and my grandkids.”
The embedded image below includes comments from the public reacting to Gentile’s retirement on The Valley Indy’s Facebook page.
In an interview with The Valley Indy Monday, Gentile said retirement has been on her mind for several years.
Her friends have reached retirement age. Her husband, John, a former educator, is also retired.
“In your heart, you just know when it’s time,” Gentile said.
Still, she said she’ll work as hard as ever in her remaining time in office (her term ends at the end of the year).
She didn’t want to think about her legacy — yet.
“I’m trying not to think about that right now because I still have to finish up this term and there are still some things that i’m working on,” Gentile said.
She said that she was proud of her work on behalf of schools, seniors, and veterans, but tried not to focus too much on specific achievements.
“That’s maybe one of the best parts of my time in office. Sometimes when people get elected to office they kind of get pigeonholed into one area,” Gentile said. “All of the speakers that I worked under . . . kind of used me as a troubleshooter. I feel like i was well-rounded and was able to do things for everybody, not just one constituency.”
Before serving in Hartford, she worked as chief of staff to Ansonia Mayor James Della Volpe for five years. Prior to that she worked as a legislative aide from 1995 to 1999 for State Sen. Joe Crisco and from 1977 to 1995, as an assistant vice president of business development and government affairs for Centerbank.
Gentile was interviewed by The Valley Indy in a podcast episode published in 2016.
Click play to listen to the interview.
Gentile first won the seat in 2004 in a close race over J.R. Romano, now the chairman of the state Republican party, with a 339-vote margin of victory, 4,232 to 3,893.
Gentile said that when she won her first race in 2004, she didn’t think she’d still be representing Ansonia and Derby for more than a decade.
“I always said ‘I don’t want to be one of the dinosaurs they take out of here,’” she said.
In a rematch two years later Gentile again bested Romano, who was endorsed by the New York Times, extending her margin to 776 votes, 3,315 to 2,539.
That race turned out to be her last serious challenge for a decade.
She ran without a Republican opponent on the ballot in 2008, beating petitioning candidate Mary Porter 6,423 to 963. She beat Porter again in 2010 and 2012 and then Frederick Picroski in 2014.
In 2016 the GOP nominated Joseph Jaumann, an Ansonia resident with a law practice in Bridgeport, who ran an energetic campaign but still came up more than 1,000 votes short, with Gentile winning 4,880 to 3,673.
Gentile’s performance in that race was impressive, given the fact long-time Democratic Sen. Joe Crisco was ousted by George Logan, a newcomer to politics and the state’s Republican Party.
Donald Trump was elected U.S. President that year, and had a strong showing in the lower Naugatuck Valley.
Democrat Theresa Conroy lost her seat that year to Nicole Klarides-Ditria. That House seat represents Seymour, Beacon Falls, and a small portion of west Derby.
“I was the only Democrat that survived,” Gentile said of 2016.
Gentile said the most important reason for her political longevity is maintaining direct contact with voters in the 104th District, and giving them “that open door feeling that they can talk to you.”
She said it’s “too soon to tell” regarding her successor, and that part of the reason for announcing her retirement Monday would be to give the Democratic parties in Ansonia and Derby time to evaluate possible candidates.
“I tried to give them enough notice to let them go through that process properly,” she said.
The Valley Indy reported Monday that Kara Rochelle, a Seymour native and Derby resident who is president of The Naugatuck Valley Young Democrats, said running for the House seat is “something to consider.”
Jaumann, the Ansonia Republican who ran against Gentile in 2016, said Monday he has not made a decision on whether to run again.