New Haven voters Tuesday overwhelmingly gave Democrat Toni Harp a third two-year term as mayor and chose fellow Democrat Clifton Graves to become the first new probate judge in 32 years.
Harp won 77 percent of the vote, or a total of 8,293 votes, against two candidates who ended up not actively campaigning in the general election, Sarah Ganong of the Working Families Party (WFP) and petitioning candidate Marcus Paca. (The results do not include absentee ballots)
Paca collected 15 percent of the vote, or a total of 1,592, according to the Independent’s unofficial tally of the machine vote. Ganong captured 7.8 percent, with a total of 831. She succeeded in her stated goal of the campaign: winning at least 1 percent of the vote in order to secure a position on future municipal ballots for her party, which cross-endorses left-leaning Democrats.
In the race to succeed the retiring Jack Keyes as New Haven probate judge, Democrat Graves won 84 percent of the vote, with a total of 8,253 votes. Republican Melissa Papantones had 16 percent, with 1,648 votes.
Graves told the Independent he felt “humbled and honored” by his victory. He vowed to “build on the legacy and foundation of help and hope being left by Jack Keyes.”
Independent Bloc Joins Board Of Alders
The big surprise of the night was the victory of an independent candidate Steve Winter, against a homegrown Democratic candidate, Rodney Williams, in the race for alder in Newhallville/Prospect Hill’s Ward 21. Winter beat Williams 234-180 in the machine vote. Click here for a previous story detailing the issues and personalities in the race.)
That means the Board of Alders will have two independently-elected members this coming year, because petitioning candidate Hacibey Catalbasoglou won an uncontested race for Yale’s Ward 1 seat. Currently all the 30 members of the board are Democrats.
Winter, an environmental and civil-rights activist, is originally from Rhode Island. He came to New Haven to study philosophy at Yale back in 2007 and fell in love with the Elm City. He lived in the portion of the ward in middle-class Prospect Hill. Williams lives in the Newhallville portion.
Tuesday night, he credited three months of extensive door-knocking for his victory.
“I plan to remain engaged out on the street and the community and continue to organize with folks to solve the many real problems in the ward,” he said at the polls after the results were announced at the Jackie Robinson School polling station. “It starts with kids and improving education and after-school opportunities and making streets safe by improving policing in the community.”
The incumbent Democratic Alder Brenda Foskey-Hill, who’s retiring, supported Winter and walked the ward with him.
Williams, a contractor (owner of Mr. Rock Drywall) who grew up Newhallville and has advocated for more opportunities for black-owned small businesses, remarked: “A lot of East Rock showed up today. But of lot of [Newhallville] people didn’t.
The Republicans ran candidates in two out of 30 wards. They both lost: incumbent Democrat Dolores Colon beat Republican John Carlson 223 to 98 in the machine vote (not counting absentee ballots) in City Point’s Ward 6. Democrat Sal DeCola beat Republican Joshua Van Hoesen 609 to 175 on the machines in Morris Cove’s Ward 18.
In Ward 4, incumbent Democratic Alder Evelyn Rodriguez beat petitioning candidate Mayce Torres 234-16.
Democratic Board of Education member Edward Joyner was also reelected. He had a nominal Republican candidate, but she ended up not pursuing the campaign.
Click on the above video to watch Democratic Town Chair Vinnie Mauro and Mayor Harp address the crowd at her victory party at Vanity nightclub on Temple Street, where Harp, speaking without script or notes, declared: “We have a city that really recognizes that every person, no matter where you came from, no matter who you are, no matter the color of your skin, no matter how much education you have or don’t have, you are somebody in New Haven.”
Just Like New York?
Harp’s reelection mirrored that of fellow Democratic Mayor Bill DeBlasio of New York City. Both are progressive Democrats won their first term four years ago. Both won reelection Tuesday with a surprising lack of serious opposition, riding a crest of historically low crime rates, a booming real estate market, and support for immigrant-friendly “sanctuary cities” policies in the Age of Trump.
New Haven’s mayoral politics have been mirroring New York City’s for decades now. That suggests that, while local elections first and foremost come down to the local candidates and issues, broader politics forces also may play a role.
• In 1989, popular long-serving mayors were retiring in both cities — Biagio DiLieto in New Haven, Ed Koch in New York — amid rustlings for change at the grassroots. That year, John Daniels became New Haven’s first black mayor. David Dinkins became New York’s first black mayor. Both were long-serving officials in the establishment wing of the Democratic Party. Almost identical coalitions elected both of them: civil-rights outsiders, black establishment insiders, activists from District 1199 health care union. In office, Daniels and Dinkins introduced community policing.
• In 1993, voters in New Haven elected the man Daniels beat in 1989, John DeStefano. Voters in New York elected the man Dinkins beat, Rudy Giuliani. Both promised to govern more forcefully.
• In 2013, voters in both cities were electing a mayor to succeed an incumbent who had been in office for more than a decade (two decades in New Haven’s case). Both elections were highly competitive, featuring Democratic primaries with multiple A-list candidates. Four years later, all A-list challengers sat out the elections in both parties, and the elections weren’t close.
The Scene At Ward 6
One of the few truly contested races took place in the Ward 6 race for alder in City Point and along Howard Avenue.
Around 5 p.m., Democratic alder candidate Colon, Republican alder candidate Carlson, and Republican citywide probate judge candidate Papantones huddled under umbrellas on the corner outside the New Horizons School polling spot, trying to stay out of the persistent rainfall. With few voters in sight, the candidates mostly watched the cars fly down Sargent Drive or, a little farther, slug through traffic on the I-95 Turnpike. Carlson filled out a report on SeeClickFix about a broken section of sidewalk that had turned into a wide puddle.
After an hour, when one voter in a rain-jacket finally sped past, the parties almost missed her; a Republican supporter, Paul Larrivee, chased her down the sidewalk, waving a flyer.
Colon had arrived at the polls 12 hours earlier, at 5:30 a.m., after a restless night. She said she felt confident her team of 50 volunteers, include neighbors from Wards 4 and 6 and members of the New Haven Rising activist group, had turned out the votes she needed. She was confident she’d win, but not by how much. She said she had “more work to do,” citing progress on the Hill-to-Downtown plan and the redevelopment of Church Street South.
Carlson, meanwhile, said that the outstanding quality-of-life issues in the neighborhood suggested that the alder could have done more during her long tenure on the board. “After 16 years as alder, you’d think the roads and sidewalks would be fixed, the community center opened,” he said. “That’s not because it’s the alder’s job exactly, but because if she truly was looking out for the neighborhood, she’d lobby City Hall and get funding.” He expected the final results to be close, he said.
Carlson said neighbors had been receptive to his message, even if they had a different party affiliation. Only one person had yelled at him while door-knocking. “In New Haven, although it’s predominantly Democratic, people are open to ideas. They vote for the better candidate, not for party, when they’re given the choice,” he said. “The problem is they’re rarely given the chance, especially in the Hill.”
His supporters carried signs reading, “Let’s FIX the 6th!” Hector Legun said he’d known Carlson to be a “go-getter” since childhood. “He can effect positive changes in the neighborhood,” he said, citing crime and broken sidewalks, speeding cars and unavailable parking.
Larrivee, another canvasser supporting Carlson, said Colon had served well, but he argued that politicians needed competition to stay honest. A former Reagan Democrat who has since switched his party affiliation to the GOP, Larrivee said he wanted an alder who could “work for residents, not unions or interests that the administration has,” he explained. “We need somebody who works for everybody.”
While most of the day was slow for Papantones as she hit up at least seven neighborhoods (Wards 6, 17, 18, 25, 26, 27 and 30), she said she believes she convinced at least one voter to show up in support. She explained to one voter that probate judges decide whether to institutionalize patients in psychiatric hospitals.
“We still have those?” the voter asked.
Patients are medicated against their will all the time, Papantones answered. “I think that you’ve given me something to go to the polls for,” the voter said.
She wasn’t convinced she’d pull out a victory over Graves, saying that was the “realistic” way to look at the election. “Look, I’m not doing this for personal gain. Probate Court is really important. You need somebody with good judgment, and I think I have that,” she said
On the other side of the judicial race, Maurice Bacote, an ex-con who’s been in the city prison-reentry program that Graves runs, Project Fresh Start, for two years, stood in the rain without an umbrella with a Graves shirt on. He called Graves, the re-entry coordinator, a “great man who could do great things for the city.” Should he and his five-month-old son ever show up in probate, he said he’d want Graves at the front of the courtroom.