Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Thursday morning that retired Associate Attorney General Mark Kohler will replace Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who announced that she will resign today to spend more time with her husband.
Kohler, from North Haven, retired earlier this year after 30 years in the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General, during which he spent 10 years as the head of the Special Litigation Department, which represents state constitutional officers, the legislature, judiciary, and executive branch offices – including Secretary of the State and the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
“Mark is incredibly well-respected as a levelheaded, tactful, and experienced attorney who has a considerable understanding of Connecticut state statutes, particularly those concerning the operations of our elections and government administration,” Lamont said in a news release announcing the decision.
Lamont said it was unfortunate that Merrill had to step away from her position six months before the end of her term to take care of her husband, who is dealing with medical issues. He said he was pleased that Kohler agreed to step away from his retirement to return to state service. Kohler said in the release that he was honored that Lamont tabbed him to finish Merrill’s term.
“I have the utmost respect, appreciation, and admiration for the work Denise Merrill accomplished in this role, and I look forward to working with her dedicated team of professionals to ensure that our elections are carried out in an accessible, fair, and transparent manner,” Kohler said.
Attorney General William Tong praised the appointment of his former colleague, saying Kohler was the “absolute best choice” to fill the role.
“He was one of the biggest brains in our office and knows our state’s election laws inside and out. He is an unflappable manager who oversaw the deluge of litigation defending our election laws and executive orders during COVID-19,” Tong said. “He has been for many years one of the leading constitutional lawyers in our state. He is the definition of calm under pressure and is going to do an excellent job. He is above all a gracious and humble man and I am grateful he is coming back to state service.”
A request to Connecticut Republican Party Chair Ben Proto for comment was not answered in time for publication.