At 11th Hour, Pro-City Hall Candidate Found

by Paul Bass | July 31, 2009 7:23 AM | | Comments (16)

mrstaggers.pngCarlton Staggers registered to vote Thursday. He became a candidate for alderman. And he discovered a relative was already running for the same office.

Talk about surprises.

Until Thursday morning, Ward 30 — covering the West Hills and West Rock neighborhoods — had just one candidate for alderman this year, Democrat Darnell Goldson. He won the endorsement of his Democratic ward committee with no opponent present. Then, this Tuesday night, the Democratic Town Committee endorsed him at its citywide convention. Still no challenger in sight.

But Goldson is a rare bird in Democratic Party aldermanic politics: he openly disagrees with the policies of City Hall. (Read about that here.)

So, at the 11th-hour, an opponent was found: Staggers.

First, before asking voters to vote for him, Staggers registered to vote himself.

Staggers went to the Hall of Records Thursday to do that, then to file campaign papers.

Staggers (pictured above outside the Registrar of Voters Office), a 42 year-old staffing manager at Marrakesh, Inc., said he only recently got the idea of running for office.

It was actually someone else’s idea, he said: Michelle Edmonds-Sepulveda, the current alderwoman. Edmonds-Sepulveda, an administration supporter, decided not to run again. She recruited Staggers. She filed as his campaign treasurer Thursday.

Staggers said he made the decision to run Tuesday night. He hadn’t realized at the time that Darnell Goldson was running, too, he said. The two know each other: Staggers is married to Goldson’s wife’s cousin.

“I just found out” that Goldson is running, he said Thursday.

Staggers said he had registered to vote decades ago, but left town for Hamden. He’s now back in Ward 30, where he grew up and attended the old West Hills School. His son now attends Sheridan, which has been temporarily housed in the same building on Valley Street.

“I’m really interested in the neighborhood. I’m not planning on leaving out of there,” he said.

Asked why he hadn’t attended the ward committee endorsement meeting or the citywide convention, Staggers replied, “I’m just new into this. I’m learning everything right now.”

He does have opinions on some city issues. He said the public “schools are wonderful.” The police department, too. (“From where it was when I was younger, I think it’s improved a lot. It still has its little issues here and there.”)

He’s a fan of Mayor John DeStefano. “I’m very happy” with the job the mayor’s doing, he said.

He was asked about opponent Goldson’s criticism of the mayor for failing to appoint anyone from Ward 30 to any city boards or commissions.

“I can’t voice my opinion on that. I don’t know that part of it,” he replied. “This is all new to me.”

He said his “main focus” if he wins “will be on the youth. I’ve been coaching AAU basketball for years for the Boys and Girls Club. You’re dealing with a lot of personal issues too. Being an AAU coach is like being a social worker.”

Darnell Goldson welcomed his new opponent to the race.

“When only one candidate runs it’s a coronation. When two candidates run, it’s an election. I look forward to a election” Goldson said. Because the two are related — and like each other — the race will be friendly, Goldson predicted.

Democratic ward Co-Chair Honda Smith welcomed Staggers to the race, too. But she said she’s sticking with Goldson, the endorsed candidate, and plans to work hard for him. She called Staggers “a very good guy. He’ll do anything for people.”

Edmonds-Sepulveda, who works for the Board of Education as a truancy officer, could not be reached for comment Thursday. She said last week that she is retiring because she needs more time with her family.

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Posted by: West Rock Res | July 31, 2009 9:29 AM

Carleton Staggers is the nicest guy ever. He's lived in the neighborhood since he was a kid and all the time that he's not spending with his family he's giving back to the community's children. I know our youth will be incredibly well-served with Carleton as our alderman.

Posted by: Voices from the Machine | July 31, 2009 10:45 AM

Didn't this guy just quit as Governor of Alaska? Nice job Suzie Voigt, the Mayor will be please you found him another sure vote on the Board.

Posted by: WR4ever | July 31, 2009 11:03 AM

Could this be any more transparent a grab for City Hall to hold its power no matter what the cost to the neighborhood?

Posted by: Get Real | July 31, 2009 11:20 AM

Isn't it possible that Staggers wants to run to help his ward? Is that really so hard to believe? Voices and WR just automatically assume that everything is a big conspiracy. Someone who has lived in the Ward for 30 years, donates his time and has kids in public schools might have an interest independent of city hall in his community. Stop assigning your city hall hating to someone trying to do a good thing and give him a chance.

Posted by: billinNewhallville | July 31, 2009 11:23 AM

I say more the merrier! It's great that Carleton is getting involved in New Haven. It's obvious he has had experience being a leader and community advocate. As for his registration-- It's better late then never.

Posted by: Eva M | July 31, 2009 11:28 AM

Staggers sounds like a great candidate. He seems like he has a genuine interest in learning about the process. I'm happy that he's running a positive campaign and willing to work with city hall. He clearly has the best interest of his community in mind. I can't wait to see him on the campaign trail. Best of luck!

Posted by: James FP | July 31, 2009 11:31 AM

I'm not sure what "Pro-City Hall" means; it looks like it basically means that he's actually willing to work with other Alders and the Mayor to get things done. I'm not sure how that can be considered a bad thing, and frankly I think it's a bit irresponsible of the Independent to be portraying obstructionism as a desirable thing.

Posted by: Streever | July 31, 2009 12:20 PM

James FP:
I think the NHI has added some confusion to the mess, by making obstructionist synonymous with independent--that's the definite impression I get after reading the articles.

Part of the issue is the commentary, which is from clueless people--unfortunately, the only people willing to speak up here tend to be people who have no idea how the city operates or who does what.

Posted by: Hood Rebel | July 31, 2009 1:16 PM

Christ! This BS move is totally transparent. What's wrong with dissenting voices on the Board of Aldermen? I am thankful for the long history of dissenters in this nation.

Posted by: HewNaven?? | July 31, 2009 1:48 PM

"Part of the issue is the commentary, which is from clueless people--unfortunately, the only people willing to speak up here tend to be people who have no idea how the city operates or who does what."


That was brave to publicly accuse yourself of being clueless. I would have pleaded the fifth.

Posted by: Sharon Bass | July 31, 2009 2:48 PM

While Staggers might be a good guy and sincerely involved in his district, I think the facts tell the story, not the sentiments. This guy wasn't even a registered voter until after the nominating conventions -- clearly showing he had no intention to run. Then "something" happened and all of a sudden, literally, he is -- and against someone who's not in the mayor's pocket. The NHI is right on.

Posted by: West Rock Res Also | July 31, 2009 3:12 PM

Darnell Goldson is the ultimate family man. If you see him without his daughter, that means she must be in school, those two are tied to the hip. He has been a great father and husband, and is sending his stepson off to college this year. And how about his work with youth, his students call him dad. The entire community, and the city, would be well served by his election.

Carlton Staggers is a good guy also.

Posted by: Voices from the Machine | August 1, 2009 3:10 PM

I am not "clueless" but rather speaking from full experienced knowledge of what the DeStefano/Voigt machine is willing to do and the fealty they require. Thank you Sharon Bass for laying out the facts on which my comment was based, also found in the original article.

Posted by: Hmmm... | August 2, 2009 1:29 PM

You know, this Staggers guy seems like he is already doing some really great things for his community and our city. It sounds like he is already a leader and invaluable and he has a following of people who love and appreciate him. So I'm thinking pushing him into the spirit-sucking pit that is New Haven electoral politics would hurt the community and maybe destroy him. He might be better off on the outside.

Maybe Staggers should set his priorities of issues for the community and make sure that Goldson knows them and hold Goldson accountable for making sure the city helps them address those priorities.

It's time for US to start setting the agenda we follow in this city. Not allow our elected officials to set it alone. Democracy is about "we the people" not "they the government." You wouldn't hire a painter because your kitchen needs painting then let the painter come to your house and decide not only what room they will paint but what color they will paint it.

Charter revision is coming soon. Might be a good time to start thinking about how we want this city to look for the next ten years. Or we could just wait and see what the Mayor, Yale, YNHH, KoC and a few other folks want us to accept.

Posted by: Reason | August 3, 2009 2:15 PM

Is every candidate who runs against an incumbent Destefano/Suzy/Machine sent??? This is a DEMOCRACY! Any American citizen has the right to run for public office! Anyone can file the papers to run for Alderman. The idea is to tie the candidate to the "opposition" ie. Destefano/Suzy/Machine to tarnish their reputation perhaps before they even get started. DO NOT BE FOOLED PEOPLE! Is it too late to run in ward 5?

Posted by: what | August 3, 2009 3:38 PM


Did you even read this article. This guy Staggers was recruited by Edmonds-Sepulveda, who is the outgoing Alderwoman who works for the city (Destefano/Suzie/Machine). All of us who live in the Ward know what this is a feeble attempt by Destefano/Suzie/Edmonds-Sepulvada/Machine to hold onto power. Let's call it what it is. He says he never even considered a run until recruited. Doesn't have an opinion that counters the Destefano/Suzie/Edmonds-Sepulvada/Machine. Not one single citizen from Ward 30 appointed by the Destefano/Suzie/Edmonds-Sepulvada/Machine to a Baord or Commission. How about your Ward 5, not a single person appointed by the Destefano/Suzie/Machine

I do agreed with you on one point. This is America, and every citizen has the right to run for office, I think Goldson said that in the article.

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