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Campaign Notebook: No One’s Fessing Up
by Paul Bass | Aug 28, 2013 7:06 am
Posted to: East Rock, Westville, Campaign 2013
A push-poller from an outfit called National Opinion Research called some voters at home Monday night to trash mayoral candidate Toni Harp. Who could have hired the trash-talker?
Mayoral candidate Henry Fernandez? Nope, Fernandez said. He’s not even conducting polls. And “we have never asked any questions about any of our opponents ever in any of our phone bank operations,” he added.
Mayoral candidate Justin Elicker? Nope, not me, Elicker insisted.
Mayoral candidate Kermit Carolina? Carolina doesn’t even do phone polls, he said. “I don’t have the money to do that—so you know it didn’t come from me! I’m running in the clean-elections [program]; 94 percent of my funds come from city residents in small contributions. We don’t have that kind of money to throw around.
Harp campaign manager Jason Bartlett said his camp didn’t conduct Monday night’s poll, either. “About a month ago we did a benchmark poll and tested her negatives. We tried to gauge that. That was well over a month ago,” Bartlett said.
Somebody apparently paid push-pollers to ask voters Monday night for whom they intended to vote in the Sept. 10 Democratic mayoral primary; then proceeded to ask questions about Harp, and no other candidates.
Here’s how one recipient of the call transcribed those questions:
“If I told you that state Sen. Toni Harp’s family was the biggest slumlord in New Haven, keeping properties in terrible conditions, including a property at 91 Rosette St., would you be far less likely to vote for her, somewhat less likely, or not affected at all?”
“If I told you that state Sen. Toni Harp’s family is the biggest tax scofflaw in the state of Connecticut, owing more than $1 million in back taxes, would you be far less likely to vote for her, somewhat less likely, or not affected at all?”
Click here to read a story about Harp’s son’s real-estate business.
Carolina pointed out that it would appear that one of the other candidates must have paid for the push poll.
“I hope this isn’t the kind of lying that voters have to look forward to,” he remarked.
“We have men behaving badly, some worse than the others. We call on people to stop negative campaigning, period,” Jason Bartlett said.
The Alternative-To-Harp Race
Justin Elicker received a letter the other day praising his record as an alderman—and urging him to vote for Henry Fernandez for mayor.
The direct-mail piece, sent to Westville and East Rock Democrats, reflects how in some ways the Sept. 10 primary is a run-off election—and one in which second place might prove the most important result.
Three of the four Democratic mayoral candidates—all but Toni Harp—have secured independent ballot slots for the Nov. 5 general election. That means they have the option to continue running in the general election even if they lose the Democratic primary.
With more than 18,000 registered independent voters in New Haven, a candidate who loses the primary would still have a shot at winning enough fresh votes to prevail in the general election.
That scenario has been very much on all the candidates’ minds. The candidates are all hoping to win the primary. But if Harp wins, as expected, the others are hoping to emerge as the clear second-place winner—and thus enter the general election as the leading contender for the anti-Harp and anti-Democratic-establishment vote.
In East Rock and Westville, two of the three highest-voting neighborhoods in town, Elicker and Fernandez have already been contending for that mantle. Many voters in those two neighborhoods have been reporting trying to choose between the two. (Click here to read a story about that.) Voters in those two neighborhoods received a letter this past weekend from eight supporters of Fernandez’s campaign. Four of the signatories—Ana Maria Rivera, Paul Wessel, Bruce Shapiro, and Margaret Spillane—live in East Rock. Three—Stephen Wizner, Rachel Wizner, and Robin Golden—live in Westville. (The eighth, Sandra Trevino, runs Junta for Progressive Action and lives on the East Shore.)
The letter trumpets Fernandez as the most experienced candidate ready to “bring our city together and get things done, “a leader who can inspire and manage,” a Yale law grad whose “family is African-American, white and Latino.” (Fernandez’s mother is white, his father, black; he is married to Kica Matos.)
Then the letter addressed the support Elicker has picked up. The letter doesn’t mention Harp.
“Some of our friends are supporting Justin Elicker, who has been an energetic voice on the Board of Aldermen,” the letter argues. “Justin Elicker has a fine future but he lacks the broad support necessary to win this election and the experience to be mayor. If we divide our votes between these two capable candidates, we will not end up with the mayor New Haven needs.”
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Maybe it’s a private resident of New Haven making these calls, terrified with he prospect of another tired old politician running a city in desperate need of fresh ideas.
I got the call from that poll over the weekend, not Monday. I was trying to figure out who would run it. Curious.
Push poll or not; truth hurts.
Harp is the beneficiary of massive tax evasion and voters should know about it.
Well, at least the push poll caller stuck to the facts.
I received that call. I figured it was Fernandez, because he’s really the only one with the kind of money to do that and it’s not really Justin’s style anyway.
Whoever it was, I appreciated it. Toni Harp has yet to address these issues in a meaningful way. I shudder at the thought of someone who can so easily brush very major ethical concerns being our major. She absolutely needs to be called out by voters on the tax evasion and slumlord issues. Saying “I didn’t know”, when you have 20 years in politics and have an extensive professional and personal network just doesn’t cut it.
The truth can hurt sometimes.
I got the call and started laughing when they got to Harp being a taxpayer delinquent. I love this whole election! Best reading/entertainment in months!
Where have you been? Was this Henry’s pole? I think it has his signature on it, no?
Thats it! Xavier! My gloves have come off!
corner of state and ferry high noon!
Only call I got was from Ms. Harp’s campaign. They asked if I supported Harp because of all the jobs she has brought to New Haven. I asked what jobs and the caller didn’t know. She said she was a paid caller who didn’t know much about the election.
Bartlett said the Harp campaign conducted a poll a month ago to gauge the effect of these charges. Maybe this is still from that poll. Were the negative comments made only to Harp supporters? If so, that would make sense to gauge how strong the support is. If they made these statements to undecided voters, maybe not.
Anyway, it’s time to focus on the issues. Watch tonight’s debate!
I received a similar call more than a month ago. It sounds like the Harp campaign themselves authorized that poll.
In the polling call I received, it gave negative statements about the other candidates as well, not just Harp. It claimed that Elicker had only lived in New Haven for a few years (true), and that Carolina was principal of a school with poor student outcomes (true), and that Fernandez was in charge of LCI and that LCI had political corruption issues (true).
I realize it was a direct quote that somebody called claims in the call “lying”, but it doesn’t seem that anything said in the call was even misleading, much less objectively false. I think the article needs to be more clear on this matter.
In the call I received, I was reminded of the “party house” the Harp family owns in Bethany. That doesn’t seem to be false.
And I was also reminded that the estate of her husband is still paying her between $9k and 10k per month, and that she lives in a mansion while the tax bill remains outstanding. That doesn’t seem to be false either. It doesn’t seem like that payout encourages her to settle the estate anytime soon; just wait until the estate runs out of cash and then say that it’s insolvent and there’s no money to pay the tax bill.
Last Sunday night around dinner. “Would knowing Toni Harp is running for office using backing from people SHE handed YOUR tax dollars make you far less interested in voting for her…. etc.”
I said, “No. its just like a mayor using his position to form a bank and then going to work for it upon resigning.”
This got a giggle from the caller. This is someone local having fun. No national independent call center clone would have grasped that jab much less found it amusing.
To be fair, both of those questions stated factual things.
I got this same call last week. I assume (and believe) it was Harp’s campaign testing her negatives, because no other candidate would spend all that money for a poll and not ask one single question about their own campaign.
And now the Harp campaign gets to decry all the negative attacks against poor Toni. It’s win/win for them.
Were the negative comments made only to Harp supporters? If so, that would make sense to gauge how strong the support is. If they made these statements to undecided voters, maybe not.
I got this call. I think they asked everybody about the Harp allegations. First question was whether or not you are decided, and for who. I answered “decided”, and most definitely NOT for Harp, and they still proceeded to ask me how likely I would be to vote for Harp after hearing each horrible deed that she is associated with. Didn’t really make sense to me.
I got the push poll call (I live in Westville). At the end, I asked the poller, “Say, how many answers have you gotten tonight.” About 10, she said. “And who are people supporting?” “Um, one of the guys,” she said. “Elicker? Fernandez?” I asked. “I don’t remember. Definitely not Harp!”
Just a funny exchange.
Characterizing the democratic primary as a runoff election is simply not correct.
First it is extremely undemocratic to characterize it as a runoff election. Did registered Democratic voters decide it was a runoff election? No, there was never any group of voters that made this decision. So does it becomes a runoff election simply because Carolina, Elicker, and Fernandez decided to treat it as such? Three people get to decide a major change in our electoral rules?
Second a runoff election is an actual set of electoral rules that specify how candidates advance to the subsequent rounds. In this case it does not matter who comes in second place. Clearly, any candidate can subsequently decide to run willy nilly. Moreover, why would a runoff election exclude candidates, who do not participate in the Democratic party? This is an abuse and weakening of a party institution. It is not building a new electoral institution.
Third, it is my understanding that this hubris is actually weakening other institutions that could improve elections. The Democracy Fund candidates are not going to be bound by it’s rules in the general election, if they lose the primary. Effectively, they are not going to be Democracy Fund candidates. Yet, they currently enjoy the legitimacy and public funding of the Democracy Fund.
I’m sure many desire reforms to our electoral rules. Certainly, part of me is empathic to these desires. But some informal change that is the result of strategic decisions of a few campaigns seems like a terrible way to change electoral institutions. With our current institutions, a candidate should not seek a party’s nomination if he plans to subsequently run against the party. He should not use a party’s institutions in a campaign that is ultimately antagonistic to a party. If he wants to give voice independent voters, then craft a campaign around that message and honestly run as an independent from the start.
Eddie, while nothing is perfect, this is not the black or white issue that you suggest it to be. If you first assume that a candidate has no chance unless they first participate in the Democratic Primary, then if a Democracy Fund candidate ultimately wins the election, it will indicate among other things that public financing is a workable possibility in our current system.
We are so far from that ideal right now. The two Big Money candidates, Harp and Fernandez, are raking in enormous donations, more than 80% of which come from out of town in Harp’s case according to the NHI.
I’m sure that even you admit that any progress away from this disastrous Big Money, anti-democratic system would be an improvement, however small.
Although Malloy and State Democrats (including Harp) made the anti-democratic move of undermining statewide public financing through a new law signed into law this June, the ability of a Democracy Fund candidate to ultimately win here could encourage more public financing across the state, not less. We need to start somewhere: currently, New Haven is the only place that is progressive enough to be doing this. The rest of the State is suffering by being so beholden to Big Money.
posted by: Eddie on August 29, 2013 1:06am
With our current institutions, a candidate should not seek a party’s nomination if he plans to subsequently run against the party. He should not use a party’s institutions in a campaign that is ultimately antagonistic to a party. If he wants to give voice independent voters, then craft a campaign around that message and honestly run as an independent from the start.
If we had Instant-runoff voting we would not have this problem.Also independents are locked out of the debates.