Before Nathan Sokoloff would give his signature to help mayoral candidate Henry Fernandez get on the ballot before a Wednesday deadline, he gave him the third degree—about whether Fernandez will embrace nanotechnology to revive New Haven manufacturing.
Sokoloff (pictured), who’s 92, was one of about two dozen seniors who turned out Tuesday afternoon to see Fernandez speak in a function room on the ground floor of the Tower East senior housing complex off of Church Street South in the Hill.
Fernandez didn’t promise Sokoloff he would embrace nanotechnology, but did win Sokoloff’s John Hancock.
The exchange came as Fernandez entered the final push to gather enough signatures from voters to have his name appear as a candidate for mayor on the Democratic primary ballot next month. All candidates for mayor, city/town clerk and aldermen have until 4 p.m. Wednesday to submit petitions.
Candidates for mayor need to gather the signatures of at least 2,406 registered Democrats. Fernandez said he’s confident he’ll have enough signatures. So did the campaigns of mayoral candidates Justin Elicker and Kermit Carolina. Candidate Toni Harp has already turned in more than 4,800 signatures.
Fernandez wrapped up his petition drive where he kicked it off two weeks ago: in a senior housing complex. Fernandez said seniors are “the backbone of the community.” His wife, Kica Matos, noted that they’re also very reliable voters.
After a stump speech highlighting education, public safety, jobs, and elderly services, Fernandez (pictured) took questions from the group.
Sokoloff raised his hand. He asked what Fernandez would do to bring back manufacturing.
“There will be growth in manufacturing,” Fernandez said. But “it will be in different things” than it once was. Winchester Repeating Arms is not coming back.
Sokoloff interrupted: What about nanotechnology? Schenectady, New York, invested in the nanotechnology industry and “put people to work,” Sokoloff said.
Manufacturing growth will come from Yale-New Haven Hospital and Yale medical school, Fernandez said. “We’ll see precision manufacturing” of high tech health care equipment, he said.
“Health care doesn’t need help,” Sokoloff said. “They’re doing fine.”
Manufacturing will go into new technology, and Yale is leading on new technology, Fernandez said. As new businesses are created by Yale students and faculty, the city’s job will be to keep them in New Haven, Fernandez said.
“The answers are all the same,” Sokoloff said, when asked later about Fernandez’s responses. “Let’s see what the results are.”
“I was brought up in the Great Depression,” Sokoloff said. Back then, the government put people to work, he said. Now, that doesn’t happen. “The amount of effort put in is nil.”
Fernandez came around and shook Sokoloff’s hand. He said he might have room in his cabinet to appoint Sokoloff as economic development administrator.
Sokoloff signed Fernandez’s petition. He declined to say whom he will vote for in the coming election.
Fernandez picked up 15 signatures at Tower East. He declined to say how many his campaign has gathered in total. He said he is confident his campaign has enough.
The Fernandez campaign will hold a “mini-parade” on Wednesday from its Fair Haven campaign headquarters to the Hall of Records, where it wil submit its completed petition pages.
Mayoral candidate Justin Elicker said his campaign will also be handing in signatures on Wednesday. “We’re confident we’re going to get on the ballot.”
Michael Jefferson, a key advisor to the Kermit Carolina campaign for mayor, said petition gatherers would be headed out Tuesday evening for a final push, to make sure the petition includes a “cushion” of extra signatures.
“We’re going to try to do our very best,” Jefferson said.
Mayoral candidate Toni Harp has already submitted more than twice as many signatures than she needs to get on the ballot. She said last week that she expects to gather as many as 7,000 signatures.
That would put her running mate, Alderman Mike Smart, on the ballot for the city clerk spot, since Harp’s petitions have his name on them. Democratic Registrar of Voters Sharon Ferrucci said she expects to officially certify Harp and Smart’s spot on the ballot on Thursday.
Alderman Sergio Rodriguez, another city clerk candidate, said he will have the requisite number of signatures to get on the ballot. He said Monday evening that he had about 125 sheets, each of which has 20 signatures.
Ron Smith, the incumbent city clerk, who’s running for re-election, could not be reached for comment on how his petition drive is going.