Jodi Rell

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Jodi Rell
87th Governor of Connecticut
In office
July 1, 2004 – January 5, 2011
LieutenantKevin Sullivan
Michael Fedele
Preceded byJohn Rowland
Succeeded byDan Malloy
105th Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut
In office
January 4, 1995 – July 13, 2004
GovernorJohn Rowland
Preceded byEunice Groark
Succeeded byKevin Sullivan
Member of the Connecticut House of Representatives
from the 107th district
In office
January 1985 – January 1995
Preceded byDavid Smith
Succeeded byScott Santa-Maria
Personal details
Mary Carolyn Reavis

(1946-06-16) June 16, 1946 (age 77)
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
(m. 1967; died 2014)
EducationOld Dominion University
Western Connecticut State University

Mary Carolyn "Jodi" Rell[1] (née Reavis; born June 16, 1946) is an American former politician who served as the 87th governor of Connecticut from 2004 to 2011. Rell also served as the state's 105th lieutenant governor of Connecticut from 1995 to 2004 under Governor John G. Rowland,[2] and became governor after Rowland resigned from office. As of 2024, Rell is the very last Republican and woman to officially serve as Governor of Connecticut to date.[3]

Rell was Connecticut's second female governor, after Ella Grasso. She did not seek re-election in 2010 and left office in January 2011.

Early life[edit]

Born Mary Carolyn Reavis[4] 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.[5] 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.[5][6] 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[edit]

Jodi Rell's political career began as a campaign worker for Connecticut state Rep. David Smith during several of his campaigns.[5] 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.[5] He encouraged Rell to enter the race to succeed him.[5] Rell was elected in 1984, representing the 107th District in northwestern Fairfield County, centered on Brookfield. She served from 1985 to 1995.

She became lieutenant governor after the 1994 election as John Rowland's running mate and won re-election in 1998 and 2002, becoming governor in 2004 after Rowland resigned due to corruption.

Governor of Connecticut (2004–2011)[edit]


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.[7] 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.

Former Gov. Jodi Rell with Gov. Ned Lamont in 2023

Rell defeated her Democratic opponent, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. in the 2006 Connecticut gubernatorial election.[8] She received approximately 710,000 votes, the highest total for any gubernatorial candidate in Connecticut history.[9] She carried all but seven towns.

Governor Rell was one of many Republicans mentioned as a potential candidate for vice president in the 2008 presidential election.[10] The presidential nominee John McCain chose Alaskan Governor 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.[11] In August 2008 she told reporters she would file an exploratory committee for a 2010 reelection bid.[12] She announced on November 9, 2009, that she would not seek re-election.[13] Democrat Dan Malloy succeeded Rell in office on January 5, 2011.

Abortion and embryonic stem-cell research[edit]

Governor Rell supports abortion rights, and she was supported by the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition and The WISH List, an abortion-rights Republican PAC.[14] She supported abortion rights embryonic stem-cell research during her tenure as Governor.[15]

Education policy[edit]

Rell supported 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 two years. Rell's State Department of Education says the extra testing will provide little new information about students' academic progress. Rell has been active on education issues; she gave the 2008 commencement address at Central Connecticut State University.

Government spending[edit]

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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18] On May 9, 2007, Rell announced increased state revenues might make a tax hike unnecessary in 2007.[19] On June 1, 2007, Rell vetoed a Democratic plan that increased the income tax.[20] 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.[21]

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.[dead link][22][23]

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.[24]

Health care[edit]

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.[25]

Law and order[edit]

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."[26]

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.[27]

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.[28] In September 2007, she announced a moratorium on the parole of violent offenders.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

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,[32] 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.[33]

LGBT policy[edit]

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.[34]

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.[35] It also provided for civil unions to be automatically transformed into marriages on October 1, 2010.

Minimum wage[edit]

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.[36] 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.

Electoral history[edit]

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

Personal life[edit]

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.[37]

Her husband, Lou Rell, died on March 22, 2014, from cancer.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "M. Jodi Rell: The Accidental Governor". The Hartford Courant. December 26, 2010. Archived from the original on July 8, 2021. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  2. ^ "People, Politics, and Personalities - A Luncheon Presentation with Gov. Jodi Rell". Bethel's Hamlethub. September 20, 2011. Archived from the original on March 18, 2020. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  3. ^ "People, Politics, and Personalities - A Luncheon Presentation with Gov. Jodi Rell". Bethel's Hamlethub. September 20, 2011. Archived from the original on March 18, 2020. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  4. ^ "Former ODU student named Conn. Governor". Old Dominion University News. Old Dominion University. 2004-06-22. Archived from the original on 2006-09-11. Retrieved 2007-02-05.
  5. ^ a b c d e Pazniokas, Mark (2014-05-26). "Lou Rell, 73, was 'first spouse' of Connecticut". Connecticut Mirror. Archived from the original on 2014-03-23. Retrieved 2014-03-23.
  6. ^ Medina, Jennifer. "M. Jodi Rell". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2012-03-23. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  7. ^ Quinnipiac University – Office of Public Affairs. "Connecticut (CT) Poll * November 23, 2004 * Connecticut Gov Gets Highest A – Quinnipiac University – Hamden, Connecticut". Archived from the original on 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2010-07-18.
  8. ^ Grant, Steve (2006-11-08). "With defeat very clear, De Stefano concedes race". The Hartford Courant. p. A7. Archived from the original on 2012-09-14. Retrieved 2007-02-05.
  9. ^ "Governor/Connecticut". America Votes 2006. Cable News Network. 2006-11-08. Archived from the original on 2008-12-11. Retrieved 2007-02-05.
  10. ^ "Rell For Vice President? – Politics News Story – WFSB Hartford". 2008-02-19. Retrieved 2010-07-18.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "Please, Not Another Raid – Hartford Courant". 2010-04-12. Archived from the original on 2008-04-13. Retrieved 2010-07-18.
  12. ^ "Rell preparing to run". 2008-08-15. Archived from the original on 2015-05-18. Retrieved 2010-07-18.
  13. ^ "Topic Galleries". Archived from the original on 2009-11-13. Retrieved 2010-07-18.
  14. ^ "Governor Rell: Lt. Governor Rell Honored by Pro-Choice Coalition". Archived from the original on 2023-04-14. Retrieved 2020-02-09.
  15. ^ "Jodi Rell Makes History in State's Top Post". Archived from the original on 2007-12-18. Retrieved 2020-02-09.
  16. ^ "Reaction to Gov. M. Jodi Rell's two-year budget plan". The Hartford Courant. Tribune Company. Associated Press. 2007-02-08. Retrieved 2007-02-11.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Connecticut Voters Like Gov Rell, But Not Tax Hike, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters Mixed On Gay Marriage, Civil Unions" (Press release). Quinnipiac University Poll. 2007-02-15. Archived from the original on 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2007-02-20.
  18. ^, Connecticut News and Weather – No support for Rell's budget plan Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ Governor Rell: Governor Rell Announces Little or No Tax Increases Will Be Required in Her Proposed Budget Archived 2007-05-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ Governor Rell: Governor Rell Vetoes Democratic Tax Plan Archived 2007-06-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ Topic Galleries –
  22. ^ "Rell: Deeds For Fort Trumbull Homeowners". The Hartford Courant. 2006-06-02. Retrieved 2007-02-05.[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ Kramer, John E.; Knepper, Lisa (2006-06-02). "Connecticut Gov. Rell Clarifies Her Statement: She Supports Returning Deeds to Family-Occupied Homes". Cases. Institute for Justice. Archived from the original on 2006-12-24. Retrieved 2007-02-05.
  24. ^ "How's Your Governor Doing on Taxes and Spending? – National Review Online". National Review Online. 30 September 2010. Archived from the original on 19 October 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2010.
  25. ^ [1] Archived September 6, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ Office of the Governor. "Governor Rell: Governor Rell Announces Prison Inmates Will Return from Virginia". Archived from the original on 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2010-07-18.
  27. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 2007-05-25. Retrieved 2007-02-05.
  28. ^ Governor Rell: Governor Rell Announces Major Crackdown on Parole, Supervision of ‘Burglary II’ Offenders Archived 2017-07-31 at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ Topic Galleries –[permanent dead link].
  30. ^ CAPITOL WATCH: A Defense of Parole – From Bob Farr in 1999.
  31. ^ Gregory B. Hladky (2007-09-25). "Rell Won't Testify On Parole Reforms". New Haven Register. Journal Register Company. Retrieved 2007-10-16.[permanent dead link]
  32. ^ "Topic Galleries". Retrieved 2010-07-18.[permanent dead link]
  33. ^ Office of the Governor (2008-04-04). "Governor Rell: Statement of Governor M. Jodi Rell on the Home Invasion and Shootings in New Britain". Archived from the original on 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2010-07-18.
  34. ^ "Rell Would Veto Same-Sex Marriage Bill". The Hartford Courant. Tribune Company. Associated Press. 2007-01-27. Retrieved 2007-02-15.[permanent dead link]
  35. ^ "Topic Galleries". Archived from the original on 2009-04-27. Retrieved 2010-07-18.
  36. ^ "Legislature Overrides Minimum Wage Veto". WTIC (AM) News/ Talk 1080. 2008-06-23. Retrieved 2008-07-29.[permanent dead link]
  37. ^ "Press Release: Governor Rell Leaves Hospital After Breast Cancer Surgery". Archived from the original on 2006-12-17. Retrieved 2007-11-06.
  38. ^ Mark Pazniokas (22 March 2014). "Lou Rell, 73, was 'first spouse' of Connecticut". The CT Mirror. Archived from the original on 23 March 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2014.

External links[edit]

Connecticut House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the Connecticut House of Representatives
for the 107th district

Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut
1994, 1998, 2002
Succeeded by
Preceded by Republican nominee for Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former Governor Order of precedence of the United States Succeeded byas Former Governor