- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The longtime Republican leader in the Connecticut House of Representatives announced Wednesday he will not be seeking re-election and called his time in the General Assembly an “incredible opportunity” and thanked his colleagues for making him a better legislator and a better man.

Norwalk Rep. Lawrence Cafero Jr. has served as the House minority leader since 2007. He was first elected to the General Assembly in 1992.

Known for his quick wit and engaging floor speeches, a reflective Cafero stood up in the Hall of the House and said, “after 22 years in this magnificent building, it’s time for me to move on.” He said the past two decades have been “the most incredible opportunity I could ever dream of.”

Cafero had considered running as a GOP gubernatorial candidate for 2014, but announced last June he would not seek the party’s endorsement. The 56-year-old father of three said he wanted to spend more time with his family, including his aging parents.

Cafero’s wife, Barbara, and children were on hand for the announcement, which turned into a tribute by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Democratic House Speaker Brendan Sharkey credited Cafero with helping to reach a bipartisan agreement on gun control legislation in the wake of the Newtown school massacre.

“He had an extraordinarily difficult job in leading the minority caucus in this chamber and it was Larry who brought his caucus together and who stayed at the table - stayed at the table despite frustrations, despite a desire to go somewhere else,” Sharkey said. “And it speaks volumes about the man.”

Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, a deputy House Republican leader and a possible contender to replace Cafero, called her colleague a “kind man” who loves both his family and the GOP caucus, which he considers to be his second family.

“He cares more about helping you achieve your goal, almost more than him achieving his goal, because in his mind, that’s what a leader is,” she said.

Cafero’s departure comes as the FBI investigates the House Republican caucus and its use of two direct mail companies. Republican state lawmakers have said they believe federal authorities are trying to determine whether any Connecticut House Republicans were pressured to use a particular company for their political campaign mailings.

Cafero has said his caucus is cooperating with investigators. The caucus’ former chief of staff recently resigned, saying he believed he was a “person of interest” in the probe.

Cafero’s departure had been anticipated since the beginning of the year, before the probe became public.

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