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Former Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker remembered as a consequential state leader

Lowell Weicker explaining his third veto of a budget in the runup to passage of a state tax on wages in 1991.
Nick Lacey
CT Mirror
Lowell Weicker explaining his third veto of a budget in the runup to passage of a state tax on wages in 1991.

Connecticut political leaders praised Lowell Weicker, former Connecticut governor and U.S. senator, as one of the most consequential leaders in state history. Weicker introduced a state income tax during his tenure. He died on Wednesday at the age of 92.

“He’s larger than life…always was and always will be in my book,” said Governor Ned Lamont about the late governor.

Fueled by their opposition to the war in Iraq, Lamont credits Weicker with getting him involved in statewide politics, challenging then-U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, a war hawk.

“He was very forceful in making sure that I stood tall in opposing that invasion. He seemed to relish a battle. He loved charging in, absolutely certain that he was absolutely right 100%, and he often was,” Lamont said.

Weicker first made his mark in national politics as a U.S. senator. In 1973, he was one of the Republicans who stood up to Republican President Richard Nixon during Watergate.

That took political courage, said Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewiez.

“Where he was just unafraid to stand up to people in his own party and to call upon another Republican President of the United States to resign,” she said.

Byseiwiecz was a member of the state House of Representatives in the early 1990s when Weicker became governor as an Independent, and introduced the state income tax.

“It put our state onto a more sustainable financial future and somehow he was able to bring together both Democrats and Republicans to do that,” she said.

She admired that Weicker, who was a fiscal conservative, supported reproductive rights and civil liberties.

“He signed our Roe v. Wade legislation into state law. I admired what he did for people with disabilities. As a United States senator, he wrote the American with Disabilities Act. And he felt very deeply about that because his son Sonny had down syndrome,” Byseiwicz said.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), then-state attorney general, remembers Weicker for his tenacity.

“Just the way he was standing strong and speaking out fearlessly and fiercely for conscience and conviction even when others disagree. And he did a lot of good for a lot of people,” Blumenthal said.

Weicker championed environmental and ocean protection and AIDS research, said U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) in a statement.

Murphy said he enjoyed visiting Weicker at his home in Old Lyme and being mesmerized by his stories about his time in Washington and Hartford.

Governor Lamont has ordered flags to be lowered until sunset on the day of Weicker’s internment.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.