An “exploratory” candidate didn’t mention a name beginning with T. But the reference was clear, and so was the point.
Kermit Carolina made the reference Tuesday evening at the Courtland Seymour Wilson Branch Library in the Hill, where his exploratory committee held a meeting to urge him to “Run, Kerm, Run!”
The event came amid speculation about what state Sen. Toni Harp’s surprise entrance into the mayor’s race will mean for the other candidates looking to replace retiring incumbent John DeStefano. One candidate, state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, said he is “reassessing” whether to run.
Carolina, the principal of Hillhouse High School, made it clear Tuesday that he’s headed towards joining the race.
In remarks before three dozen supporters and onlookers in a basement meeting room, Carolina stressed his “in-the-trenches” work with kids and his upbringing in the Ashmun Street housing projects to show he knows what low-income families in New Haven are going through.
“The current field [of candidates] that’s out there—I’m concerned about their connection to people,” he said. “They have a helicopter view” from “being at the state level” or inside a room with four walls, he said. The reference to Harp, who has spent the last two decades as a state senator at the Capitol, was clear.
Carolina said he plans to meet with his exploratory committee Wednesday and make a final decision about running. “An announcement is going to come very, very, very soon,” he said.
After his public remarks, he brushed off the notion that Harp’s entrance would claim a large swath of voters he had been counting on to win the Democratic nomination in a Sept. 10 primary.
“I don’t see it having too much of an impact on the people who have come to know me over the years,” he said of her candidacy.
Then he made clear his opaque reference to Harp. He called her an “outstanding, amazing person,” but one who has been “too far removed for too long” from what’s going on in the streets of New Haven. He called “selfish” her decision to leave the Capitol, where she has been able to funnel money to New Haven as co-chair of the Appropriations Committee.