After fighting brain cancer for more than a year, state Rep. Terry Backer said Tuesday that he will run for re-election if he keeps feeling as good as he does now.
Backer, a Stratford Democrat who is among the longest-serving legislators, was looking chipper at the Legislative Office Building Tuesday as he spoke about his future. He underwent six hours of brain surgery at Bridgeport Hospital in October 2010 to remove a tumor, and he has since undergone radiation and chemotherapy.
But the 57-year-old lawmaker said he was feeling very good as he spoke to a lobbyist and then two reporters in the atrium of the LOB.
"If I'm on my feet like I am today, and the good Lord keeps me here, I'm running,'' Backer said in an interview with Capitol Watch. "I feel blessed. Everything could have been worse. You know what? They're not always right. The Lord has really blessed me.''
A former competitive power lifter who was known for his hefty size, Backer has since lost 85 pounds during his health battle. He is sometimes weak and has missed votes at times when the state House of Representatives was in session. He is technically 100 percent medically disabled, but some days are better than others.
"I didn't want to be called disabled,'' Backer said.
Backer first arrived at the Capitol in January 1993 when Lowell Weicker was serving as governor. He has won 10 elections, and has also served under Republicans John Rowland and M. Jodi Rell, and the current governor, Dannel P. Malloy.
Backer is currently celebrating his 25th year as the Long Island Soundkeeper - his main job outside the legislature. He said he is currently "the longest-serving keeper'' in the United States in a job that he said served as the model for keepers in Russia, China, India, Mexico, Colombia, and other countries.
"I'm the guy who started it,'' Backer said. "It blossomed into an international movement.''
Last year, Backer returned to the Capitol on the final day of legislative session, prompting a huge roar of applause in the historic Hall of the House. After casting some votes, Backer finally became tired and then left the chamber. The crowd broke out into applause once again.
"Don't get used to this seat being empty - I'm coming back," Backer said at the time.
The Courant's Jon Lender reported that day that: As he walked out with a slow but steady gait, Backer was hugged and greeted by colleagues from both parties who like him for a big personality that stands out among the many more-restrained political types in the General Assembly.
An environmental advocate, especially regarding Long Island Sound, Backer also has long stood out in his blue-collar appearance: His white hair and beard that, along with the jeans and the work shirts he often wears, make him look a bit like an old seafarer.
"I'm doing better," he said after the one-day return to the Capitol following a few weeks' absence during his recovery.
"I mean, the last MRI showed no regrowth of tumors. But also, I believe that positive attitude and prayer assist in the medication to make you better,'' Backer said. "I'm staying in touch. Believe me, there isn't a bill that's important to my constituents that I don't have input into."