Politicians around the state are mourning the death of former Secretary of the State Julia H. Tashjian, a well-known figure in state politics in the 1980s.
Tashjian, a Windsor Democrat who served as the state’s chief elections official for eight years from 1983 until 1991, died of a heart attack Thursday. She would have turned 75 on June 8.
She lost her statewide post to Republican Pauline Kezer before attempting a political comeback in the 1994 Democratic primary against West Hartford’s Miles S. Rapoport. Rapoport won in a closer-than-expected primary in which Tashjian refused to concede on election night. Rapoport then won again in November in a closer-than-expected general election against a little-known New Haven Republican named Andrea Scott.
“Today we mourn the loss of Julia Tashjian, a self-made woman of the modern political era in the mold of Ella Grasso and other strong leaders of the state of Connecticut,” said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill. “Julia Tashjian was a fierce defender of Democracy, wanting every voter to have a voice. She took her role very seriously, even serving as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. As the daughter of immigrant parents who were Armenian refugees, Julia Tashjian was always grateful for the gifts of education, economic prosperity, and freedom from oppression given to her by our great state and country.”
Merrill continued, “Julia was a trailblazer for women interested in elective office, but always valued her Armenian traditions and never forgot her humble roots. A graduate of the Hartford public school system, Julia truly viewed public service as a way to give back to her community.
“Those who knew Julia well also know that she lived life to the fullest. Today in the Secretary of the State’s office several employees who remember working with Julia Tashjian in the 1980s are recalling a woman of kindness and boundless energy, who always treated people with respect. We will miss her spirit, her dedication, and her smile.”
In a statement, Governor Dannel P. Malloy said, “For over 20 years, Julia committed her time, talent and energy to serving the people and State of Connecticut. As Secretary of State, Julia made great strides to modernize the office and encourage greater participation in our democracy. I will remember Julia for her years of public service, cheerful demeanor and pride in her Armenian American heritage. Julia will be missed by all who knew her and I offer my thoughts and prayers to her family during this difficult time.”
In a statement, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said, “Julia always had a smile and a laugh for everyone. But behind that easygoing personality she was a very hardworking public servant who was dedicated to her state, her family and her beloved Armenian community.”