Ellen P. Camhi, a powerful Stamford Democrat who was active in city, state and national politics for more than 40 years, died suddenly Tuesday at the age of 73.
Camhi’s name was not well known to the average citizen in Connecticut. But behind the scenes, she helped launch and foster some of the biggest names in politics: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General George Jepsen, and state senator and now-state Supreme Court justice Andrew McDonald.
The longtime chairwoman of the Democratic committee in Stamford, Camhi was also a member of the Democratic National Committee.
“Ellen Camhi was a real leader in politics and government and education in the state of Connecticut – and in women’s rights and the women’s movement,’’ Malloy told reporters Tuesday at the state Capitol. “She came to our state out of New York and was inspired to get involved in educational issues. She also did some amazing things, becoming chairwoman of the Stamford Democratic Town Committee in 1984 – a job that she held until two years ago when I appointed her to the state board of education.’’
Malloy said, “She inspired some interesting careers – mine being one of them. Dick Blumenthal, George Jepsen, Andrew McDonald are some of the folks that all developed inspiration or were guided or benefitted from contact and friendship with her. She was a very dear friend.’’
Malloy was in high school when he had his first encounter with Camhi. She was a member of the city’s board of education and he testified on behalf of the school lunch program, which the board was threatening to defund at the time.
Camhi was a former elementary public school teacher in New York and Connecticut. Malloy appointed her to the state board of education in 2011.
“Ellen Camhi was a relentlessly dedicated public servant, a trusted advisor to countless of us in public office, and a wonderful, dear friend,” Blumenthal said in a statement. ”She was always there, endlessly generous to her community and friends.”
Camhi was a force in Stamford politics for many years, said John Mallozzi, current chairman of the city committee.
“When she took over the party in Stamford, it was fragmented and controlled by different clubs,” he said. “She united it and that produced winners.”