To pursue political office, he would have to give up any chance of convincing his wife of 33 years to stick with him into old age.
He chose his wife, Lisa.
In an emotional address to AFL-CIO delegates at a state labor convention Monday, the Bristol labor leader said he would resign as the Democratic Party’s candidate for the 31st state Senate district seat.
That leaves the field at least temporarily wide open for Republican contender Henri Martin, a city councilor. Democrats are scurrying to figure out how to pick a replacement with a shot at winning.
Roche, 52, said that his wife separated from him two years ago when he first sought to claim the state Senate seat. He said he realized recently he never should have tried again this year.
“I blew it,” Roche said, adding that other changes are in store for his life.
He said that with politics out of the way, he can focus on a new, more important campaign: to win back the woman he loves. They have two children and two grandchildren.
Roche said he hopes to “finish writing the greatest love story ever told” instead of holding elected office.
State law allows the Democratic Party to replace Roche on the ballot, though it’s not clear exactly what the procedure is for doing so. Roche was nominated in May by a district-wide convention that included delegates from Bristol, Plainville, Plymouth, Thomaston and Harwinton. Bristol’s voters make up a bit more than half the total.
The seat is wide open this year because two-term incumbent Jason Welch, a Republican, opted not to seek reelection. The Bristol lawyer said he needed to devote more attention to his family and his job.
The man Welch defeated in 2010, longtime state Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Democrat, said Monday that he thinks Roche “could have actually won” this time around. But without him, Martin stands a good chance.
Colapietro said he has no desire to return to the fray. “Politics is getting kind of nasty. I don’t miss it,” he said.
Democratic city Councilor Calvin Brown said that Roche was “a stellar candidate” and a friend, “a truly great guy who cares more about working class families than most people in politics.”
Asked if he might consider a run for Senate this year, Brown said he loves being on the council.
“I know they’ll find a great candidate and I’ll support whoever it is,” Brown said.
Among the other potential contenders mentioned by political insiders Monday were former city Councilor Kevin McCauley, Democratic Registrar Mary Rydingsward, former city Councilor Craig Minor, City Councilor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, former Mayor Art Ward and state Rep. Frank Nicastro. It’s not clear, though, that any of them are interested.
Martin said he has gathered sufficient campaign donations to qualify for public financing of his race, but hasn’t yet submitted the paperwork to the state commission to gain access to more than $80,000 in public financing, assuming he’s opposed, along with the $15,000 he raised to qualify.
A new Democratic challenger has to start from zero to raise the necessary funds and put a campaign together, a tall order so late in the game.
Roche is the longtime business manager for the sheet metal workers union and president of the Connecticut Building Trades and Construction Council. He is also the executive secretary of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.
Senators serve two-year terms for $28,000 annually, though all of them also receive extra pay for holding additional positions within the legislature. The election is Nov. 4.