State Senator Stephen T. Cassano of Manchester announced over the weekend that he would end a four-decade political career when his term ends in January, opting not to force a Democratic primary in the 4th Senate District. this summer.
But while the veteran Democratic exit from politics wasn’t what he envisioned, colleagues from both parties said his tenure follows a consistent approach: using government to make people’s lives better.
“He’s a common sense, easy-going person who makes sure he pays attention to others,” said Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague. “He’s someone who has always been able to connect with all the different components of our very diverse caucus.”
“It was a matter of politics. It was never about politics,” former Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said of Cassano. “He’s old school – let’s get together and talk things over. … I had a good time and I always respected him.
Cassano, 80, who has represented the 4th Senate district since 2011, has brought a wealth of knowledge on municipal and regional issues to the legislature, friends say.
Co-chair of the planning and development committee, Cassano worked closely with Fasano in 2012 to chart the state’s response to Hurricane Sandy, which severely damaged nearby communities.
Although the state government struggled to balance budgets for much of the 2010s, at the end of the decade and into the early 2020s lawmakers increased municipal aid for both school districts and for the general government.
Osten, who co-chairs the budget drafting committee, said no lawmaker better understood municipal needs — or how the state could be a more effective partner with cities — than Cassano, who served 26 years on the municipal government, including as Mayor of Manchester from 1991 to 2005.
But Cassano, a retired former sociology professor from Manchester Community College, says his proudest achievement on Capitol Hill came in 2019. A years-long effort culminated in the enactment of a law allowing adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates.
“It’s not fair that some people can access their birth records, while others can’t,” he said at the time. “Access to these birth records is a right and individuals should not be prevented from knowing this vital information.”
Recalling the fight recently, Cassano said it took countless conversations with lawmakers from both parties to maneuver around an extremely personal and sensitive issue.
But since its enactment, voter feedback has been gratifying. “It made such a difference for people, medically and psychologically,” he said.
“Steve really brought a genuine, very warm commitment to the idea of coming into government to help people, to be a lawyer,” said Senate Speaker Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven. . “I’m convinced that’s what drove him.”
Prior to serving in the Senate, Cassano had been driven for more than three decades to make a difference in local government, first winning an election for local office in 1977.
It was during much of this tenure that Manchester transformed from a former factory community into a commercial center centered on the pavilions of the Buckland Hills Mall.
The Manchester government would expand social services, recreation programs, housing and economic development and other initiatives. Cassano frequently reminded his colleagues that Manchester – although legally incorporated as a city – was in fact a small city and needed a government to meet the challenges that came with it.
“We wanted a life-size community that was viable on its own,” he said. “You needed seniors’ housing. You needed children’s programs and… fill the whole spectrum in between.
Manchester would also begin to play a larger role in regional development efforts, and Cassano would take turns leading the Capitol Area Council of Governments and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.
“He has spent his entire adult life in public service,” said Manchester Democratic Town chairman Michael Pohl. “It’s a credit for him and a benefit for us.”
Cassano said he was surprised last month when Pohl and other Democratic delegates to the 4th Senate District convention did not back him for another term.
The May 10 convention, which included party members from Manchester, Glastonbury, Bolton and Andover, nominated Manchester businessman MD Masudur Rahman.
Cassano insists he never indicated he planned to quit.
He had not raised funds or even approached delegates before the end of the regular General Assembly session on May 4 – but said that was nothing new.
“I always thought the processes should be separated,” he said.
Pohl remembers it differently, saying Cassano had been reluctant to run, both this election cycle and the previous two. Other Democrats had expressed interest in 2018 and 2020, only to step down when it became clear Cassano would run, Pohl said, adding that he felt it was unfair for anyone to do so in 2022 as well.
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Cassano, who has battled knee ailments that have forced him to use a walker at times in recent years, said age and injuries slowed him down but never made him want to quit his job.
“Personally, I was hurt by what happened,” he said. “I was like, ‘Is this going to be?’ … I did a good job. I don’t think anyone doubts that.”
And though Cassano considered presenting a petition to force a primary for the Democratic nomination, or possibly seek the endorsement of the Working Families Party, he didn’t want to fight the Democrats he’s worked so closely with for decades. .
“It’s very positive that people have contacted me,” he added.
Cassano and his wife, Holly, have five children and six grandchildren, and retirement from politics will give him more time for his family. But he also said the end of his political career doesn’t mean he’s done trying to help his community.
“I have no idea [but] I will do something,” he said. “I’m not just going to walk away and do nothing. It was never my life.
Keith M. Phaneuf is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (https://ctmirror.org/ ). Copyright 2022 © The Connecticut Mirror.