Democratic mayoral candidates Justin Elicker and Toni Harp far outpolled their competitors and walked away with victories in a triple convention in East Rock Thursday evening.
Three separate Democratic ward committees largely covering the East Rock neighborhood—and constituting some of the highest-turnout voting districts in town—held the joint convention in Elicker’s home base, at Wilbur Cross High School, to register their preferences in advance of this coming Tuesday night’s citywide Democratic Town Committee convention.
Elicker and Harp (pictured above shaking hands) were the only ones of the five Democratic mayoral candidates to receive any votes in each of the three ward committee votes.
After presentations by candidates to the combined groups, members of the Ward 9 Democratic committee voted to endorse Toni Harp for mayor. She beat Elicker 21-7.
Elicker took Ward 10, which includes Cedar Hill and a slice of the Fair Haven neighborhood, and which he currently represents on the Board of Aldermen. He outpolled Harp 14-1.
Elicker also defeated Harp in Ward 19, which is split between East Rock’s Prospect Hill section and Newhallville. The vote was 7-5.
Roughly 60 people from the three wards showed up to participate in Thrusday evening’s event. Extra rows of foldable chairs were set up to accommodate the crowd.
Each candidate gave brief remarks and answered questions directly from voters. Neighbors then broke into groups by ward to endorse candidates, some sitting in circles, others more formally in rows.
Elicker arrived early and stayed nearly 30 minutes after the convention to talk with voters. Toni Harp rushed in after some candidates had already spoken, then left midway through the questioning for another engagement. Mayoral candidate Henry Fernandez sent a proxy, former city traffic chief Paul Wessel. Mayoral candidates Kermit Carolina and Sundiata Keitazulu did not appear in person or via a representative.
Since her early days as a state senator, Harp told the audience, she has sought and listened to input from New Haven’s citizens. When the city proposed starting a new homeless shelter, Harp said, she visited all of the city’s neighborhoods to get feedback. One community offered to take the shelter, which still exists today as the Grant Street Partnership. “My style is to say, ‘How do we work together?’” Harp said.
Elicker described instance after instance of helping his constituents, portraying himself as a down-to-earth, shoe leather representative willing to tackle New Haveners’ problems – no matter how big or how small. As an alderman, “I have worked my tail off to represent you,” Elicker said. “If you needed a pothole filled, I filled it. If you needed a tree trimmed, I trimmed it.”
“Well, not actually,” Elicker conceded the last point, to laughs, but he said he made sure neighbors’ concerns were addressed. He mentioned that he even resolved an issue over dog poop.
At one point, the audience broke out into applause for Elicker. Cheers came from each row, with a “woohoo!” emerging from Ward 10 Democratic aldermanic candidate Anna Festa.
After their pitches, candidates fielded questions on a variety of topics, from the composition of the school board to the city’s debt in light of news that Detroit had declared bankruptcy earlier in the day. One questioner asked the candidates for their take on the role of the mayor in general. Harp described the position as one of consensus-building. Elicker outlined the respect the mayor must foster with unions and the Board of Aldermen. To Paul Wessel, the mayor must be a CEO – namely, Fernandez.
After that, some ward committees voted relatively quickly while others engaged in discussion. Ward 9 members had a particularly lively conversation.
Several voters expressed support for Elicker. “We need a fresh face, not a career politician,” a man in a gray T-shirt said. Another man pointed out the difference in candidates’ focus: While Elicker talked about New Haven, the other candidates talked about the state. Though Harp is great, he said, she should stay in Hartford. “For my money, Justin’s the right bet.”
Rob Narracci discussed how his views on Elicker had changed. “When Justin came to town, I kinda thought he was a carpetbagger,” he said. “I found out over time that he’s a lifer. He’s willing to get his hands dirty, to work with kids.”
“When [Elicker] brings up dog doo and sidewalks, it just shows me that we’re not focusing on the tremendous social and structural problems in New Haven,” Lindsay Powell argued. “Whether you like it or not,” she continued, this time referring to Harp, “things are going to get done by relationships.”
Earlier in the night, Powell had asked the candidates what plans they had to address larger issues like crime and poverty. Elicker had acknowledged the difficulties of remedying such complex problems, emphasizing the need to avoid making unfulfillable promises during the campaign season. Powell said she is considering moving away from New Haven.
The convention also nominated candidates for the position of city/town clerk. Mike Smart won Ward 9; Sergio Rodriguez took Wards 10 and 19. Ward 19 aldermanic candidate Mike Stratton said the ward’s voters were won over by Rodriguez’s presentation, particularly by the revelation that Rodriguez and his wife had taken care of 35 foster children over a period of years.
In a speech that quoted the late Robert Kennedy, Jr., Rodriguez outlined a new vision for the clerk position. Rodriguez said he wants to expand and elevate the role – possibly to a cabinet-level post to enhance communication between small businesses and the mayor. Describing the job as “community-connected,” Rodriguez said he would strive to make the role more visible by going out into New Haven and engaging with young and old alike.
Lindsay Branson read a letter from clerk candidate Michael Smart, who was unable to attend the convention due to a meeting of the city’s charter revision commission, which he chairs. The letter noted Smart’s experience representing the diverse 8th Ward on the Board of Aldermen and said he would bring the distinct populations of New Haven together if elected clerk.
Incumbent Clerk Ron Smith did not attend the convention or send a representative.
For the aldermanic races, votes were taken with a show of hands. Incumbent Jessica Holmes (Ward 9), Anna Festa (Ward 10), and Mike Stratton (Ward 19) are all running unopposed and received unanimous support. In Ward 9, former Alderman Matt Smith (now a City Hall staffer) made a gesture of support for the candidate who unseated him in 2011, Holmes. Smith abstained from the votes for mayor and city clerk, but raised his hand for Holmes.
posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 19, 2013 11:37am
Correction needed harp only got 1 vote in 9 and there was one abstention (we were not given a reason why)
posted by: Brutus2011 on July 19, 2013 11:38am
I contributed to Gary and Justin’s campaign some time ago.
Only Justin remains after Gary’s withdrawal and he has my sole support for mayor.
Senator Harp is an attractive candidate but I gotta go with Justin.
posted by: robn on July 19, 2013 12:00pm
So how does an East Rock Ward 9 Committee and Alderperson turn their back on a dedicated neighborhood volunteer and Alderperson such as Justin Elicker, and how do they, with the highest tax burden in the city, endorse someone for mayor like Toni Harp who personally benefits from flagrant tax evasion? The answer is that a minority representing financially interested parties won the Ward Chair election with a handful of votes and then stacked the committee with guaranteed votes (in this case guaranteed by servitude to UNITE’s Bob Proto).
posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 19, 2013 12:30pm
Correction on the correction I meant 10 not 9 and the abstention was unite appointed cochair that no one knew.
posted by: anonymous on July 19, 2013 1:12pm
These straw polls are not particularly meaningful, especially since so many of these essentially self-appointed committee members (and even some of the Aldermen) are literally on the Bob Proto/CCNE/Unite payroll.
That said, I expect NHI to cover any story that involves more than 13 people in New Haven—so good work.
posted by: TheMadcap on July 19, 2013 1:27pm
“When [Elicker] brings up dog doo and sidewalks, it just shows me that we’re not focusing on the tremendous social and structural problems in New Haven,” Lindsay Powell argued.
You gotta be kidding. Both Elicker and Fernandez have laid out on their websites actual substantive policy positions and goals. Harp is still on the standard vague pleasantries about growth, schools and safety.
posted by: anonymous on July 19, 2013 2:00pm
Anyone who thinks that sidewalks and streets are not a key structural issue and determinant of social poverty is 1) deeply unfamiliar with New Haven neighborhoods, particularly those outside of East Rock, 2) unfamiliar with recent BOA policies on sidewalk expansion and 3) completely out of touch. Maybe they should be reminded that the average walker in New Haven has a tiny fraction the income of the average driver.
posted by: lawrence st on July 19, 2013 3:11pm
As a part of the Ward 9 committee, I’m very glad that Harp won our endorsement, and I was very happy with the entire process. I would also like to congratulate the Ward 9 committee for having such high turnout—getting more people involved is an important part of the process, whether it is at meetings like this or by going door-to-door.
Also, I completely agree with Lindsay Powell in that while taking care of sidewalks and dog doo is important for an alderman, it isn’t for a mayor. Yes, our sidewalks need work, as does most of our infrastructure. But the mayor is not the one doing that level of work, nor should they be. Touting your record on that does not convince me you’d be a good mayor.
Has Harp articulated a platform for dealing with any of the important issues? I can’t find it online. Not one policy or concrete idea—but a whole lot of hot air from a woman who directly benefits financially from the poor job her family does with their responsibilities.
I don’t take it too seriously when I hear from a person who is party to exploiting others that they’ll take care of the poor.
posted by: anonymous on July 19, 2013 4:29pm
Lawrence: Can you explain why crime and communities are not important issues for our Mayor?
In many US studies, good sidewalks have emerged as the single greatest factor that people want to have in their community. Controlling for all other factors, good sidewalks also increase pedestrian activity by a huge margin, and reduce crime.
Perhaps it’s a bit hard to see this fact if you live in East Rock, which is one of the most walkable places in the United States. Or maybe it is just a bit hard to sympathize if, like almost all of our State reps and DTC heads (and people who live out of town but admit that they control the Board of Aldermen, like Bob Proto), you can afford to drive everywhere.
Having lived in several city neighborhoods, seen many people severely injured by poor sidewalks, talked to parents who have to walk their kids to school underneath our interstate highways every day, and walked four miles across town on broken sidewalks to get to Fair Haven, I am pretty sure that residents feel that sidewalks and communities are pretty important things for the Mayor to prioritize.
posted by: Threefifths on July 19, 2013 7:05pm
Left Wing or Right Wing, It’s Still the Same Bird
posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 19, 2013 7:33pm
Ya know what I would like to see. Harps web site state all the things her campaign workers are promising people! If it is not in writing people it just might not be true. I have heard alot of things. And folks take notes.
posted by: Optional on July 19, 2013 10:33pm
A few corrections here, first off, there was no unanimous vote for Jessica Holmes in Ward 9, Myself and at least one other abstained. Also, I was the “other man,” and I was misquoted, I never said that Harp should “stay in Hartford” I praised her and said she was doing a fine job and is better suited to that job than that of Mayor. Many of the other committee members seemed to be hand-picked to choose the union backed candidate instead of the candidate who’s done the most for the neighborhoods. The vote seemed to be right down the line nearly everyone who voted for Harp voted for Smart and it’s no accident that both candidates are supported by the unions. Now I have no problem with unions, the problem I have is one of group think, which apparently, our Ward has become a bastion of. I was also dismayed that it was assumed that a show of hands was adequate instead of a secret ballot which would’ve eliminated any possibility of coercion. I briefly questioned the method of voting but was quietly but forcefully hushed by someone who was not a ward committee co-chair. The entire process was rushed and honestly I felt intimidated and unable to question the nature of the vote or the method. Before I became part of the ward committee I observed, and participated in the q and a session during the last nominations, during that session, the candidates said their piece and then exited. I’m not sure if the current alder thought because she was running unopposed that the rules changed, but the Ward co-chairs who were supposed to be the ones running the nominations barely spoke and he alder and another member basically ran the nominations. To the best of my knowledge I remembered the bulk of the union candidates running under the banner of ending the system the favoritism, patronage and rampant corruption that has plagued previous administrations. Unfortunately the new boss is worse than, not the same as, the old boss.
posted by: robn on July 20, 2013 7:55am
Judging from the numbers, the Ward 9 committee had a weak turnout ( relative to recent past votes)
posted by: HhE on July 20, 2013 9:42am
I think that people who take issue with Justin Elicker over dog poo are missing the point: that his focus is on solving problems, big and small.
Let us consider the apparent reason each of the three candidates who were represented are running for mayor.
Sen. Harp, my friends in Hartford convinced me one weekend to run, because the Democratric party was not happy.
OneCity wants to be Boss of New Haven.
Justin Elicker wants his adopted home to be better.
posted by: HewNaven on July 20, 2013 10:03am
I think its clear what needs to be done in New Haven. Honest people need to take back the ward committees. Can NHI help us by “advertising” upcoming ward committee activities and events so that we can get some new people involved? The reason the old guard attendees of ward committees can get away with collusion laziness is because they do it in relative secrecy, with very little effort to ‘REACHOUT’ to the voters in their ward to keep them informed. I would not be surprised to discover that many of the ward committees in town have been made up of the same individuals for decades with very little effort made to welcome new members or encourage wider participation.
posted by: mlp1 on July 20, 2013 12:08pm
My remarks at this week’s Democratic ward meeting were not meant to engender a debate on the importance of our public places and infrastructure. Is there really disagreement on this issue, folks? I personally prefer clean and well-maintained sidewalks and greatly appreciate the efforts of our alderman and city officials. Nor am I debating the relationship between public spaces and quality of life indictors. The context of my remark was the fact that Mr. Elicker highlighted his past efforts regarding street clean up as part of his qualifications for mayor during his time-limited introduction at this weeks meeting. That concerned me and did not leave a good impression. My remarks are meant to promote a broader and more complex discourse on my growing concern that our sidewalks are not safe to walk on too much of the time, and provide too many unemployed or impaired with a place to sleep. New Haven will have increasing problems even finding the funds for city repairs and sidewalks if its tax paying citizens leave due to concerns with the level of crime or school systems. Detroit, anyone? So let’s get a bit more substantive in our discussions of the challenges, and demand the same from our candidates. They all need to do a better job of articulating their ideas for solving these problems both in person and through all forms of media (as it is not I who is out of touch if one thinks that everyone in our city has the luxury, ability or inclination to go to a computer to check out positions on a website). I prefer a candidate that has experience and a track record of tackling these complex problems and a demonstrated ability of working with others no matter the social or economic background. And lastly, there is another mechanism besides the lack of experience to assure a “fresh face’. It is called term limits.
posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 20, 2013 1:44pm
The thing with ward committees is you have to be an active member. Remembering the ward committees job is to help at polling centers inside and out. Find folks to work inside that want those spots (paid for the inside). I take personal days from my job to do it, And try to do a gathering for candidates. Which we have done. Ward tens ward committee for the past few goes actually has a much larger number of Cedar Hill folks on it. We have some older folks and some newer. We spread the word made the calls to get people to join, it was open to all. We even once nominated a green party candidate because we are that open. We have had meetings (because we losst our chair and we nominated several replacements all submitted to Jackie James in writing…this was ignored and we got Mary Renolds…yes the women who is now running that “work new haven program”. Or to quote someone…that white women. The co chairs are allowed to hand in 25 names each. Ward 10 has only 38 members. I have talked to many who were active ward members around the city that have step out because they are not going door to door for a union. They use to go door to door for the party. But that party is now disaparing. That is not to say that many are still very active, just not in for the ward committees because again some went to the DTC meetings they have and found they were more of a union meeting then a democratic party meeting. Its like going to a democratic party meeting and having to say the rosary. Both should be separate! But if you want to be on your committee call your co chair but it in writing and if a seat is empty Jackie can place you in it. but with the new alder on its way co chair elections will be in March, So it is a bit late in the game.
@MLP Despite the reality—that Ward 9 is a hostile committee to Elicker and was hand-picked to support the Unite Here candidate, and had a dismal turn-out—he at least had the decency to show up at it and give his statements.
Over in Ward 10, Harp didn’t bother to appear at all.
One candidate walks the walk, and I’m sorry he didn’t talk the talk at the right moment for you, but maybe you should avail yourself of the emails, website, and flyers he has listing actual concrete proposals to work on the issues that you are talking about?
Where has Harp gone on the record even once with a policy or a fix for a problem? All she does is list the same problems you just listed.
posted by: HhE on July 20, 2013 9:01pm
I thought the question on the hybread school board was very informitive.
Sen. Harp: it is okay to have a hybread school board, but what really matters is accountability (which is code for the Mayor has complete controll). As if tweenty years of “accountability” has really worked, especially since a lot of what goes on is kept out of the puplic view.
Justin Elicker: have two members on the school board who need to be ellected means there are two people who will need to talk with the voters about what is really happening, while educational experts will still have a desive role.
One City: his rep ought to have let Justin explain as the later understood Henrey’s postion better than Mr. Wessel, but the short answer is, you can have your hybread as long as I am still Boss.
posted by: DownTownNewHaven on July 20, 2013 10:53pm
You are all missing the real point. Sergio has taken care of 35 foster kids!
Are you kidding me that is just amazing. Some people are treasures and I think it is clear that we are lucky to have Sergio and his wife in our community. I have no clue what the city clerk actually does, but I’m definitely voting for that guy.
streever: This was one event with 3 wards meeting together. Harp and Justin were both at all of them.
posted by: robn on July 21, 2013 7:25am
For, count them, three ward committees, Sen Harp was BARELY present, and then was rushed away by her campaign manager. What was so important that it didn’t even get mention in the next days news? Or maybe she was just dodging the tax dodging question, the subject of a scathing NHRegister editorial on Friday.
posted by: lawrence st on July 21, 2013 10:21am
As the “other member” who is accused of “effectively running” the nomination, let me speak up as to that:
First, the meeting was very clearly run by the co-chairs.
Second off, I was elected secretary by the Ward Committee. Part of my duties are to record minutes, and also to record votes, and to call roll. What did I do at the meeting? I read off the roll, and when people said their votes, I repeated them so everyone could hear, and I wrote them down. This was my job, which the members of the Ward committee elected me to do.
Third, a lot of time was given to members who wanted to speak for or against a candidate. Including those who were not members of the Ward committee (a welcome change from the previous committee rules).
Fourth, I’m sorry that your preferred candidate didn’t win, but crying foul-play every time you lose is just stupid. Going door-to-door is not cheating. Finding people who support a candidate, and then asking them to also go door-to-door is not cheating. Having conversations with people about what they see as big issues, and how a candidate plans to address those issues is not cheating.
posted by: robn on July 21, 2013 11:35am
It may not be “cheating”, but exploiting union databases, bringing in an army of outside canvassers, and never revealing the concerted goal of the union coalition to dominate the BOA is, by definition, conspiratorial.
posted by: Optional on July 21, 2013 11:43am
First off I NEVER accused anyone of “cheating,” since you and I both know who each other are I’ll cut right to he chase and call BS on your assertion that the co-chairs had anything to do with running the meeting aside from introducing themselves.
You and Jessica ran that meeting, anyone who was there would agree as long as they were honest about it. You may forget that I was also in attendance last nominating committee and I assure you that there were many questions asked by both members and non members, possibly even more than there were this time. Also, the vote between Matt Smith and Jessica Holmes was much closer than the veritable Harp landslide this time around.
I suspect your defensive posture has more to do with my striking a nerve than it obviously has to do with any of the “facts” you presented. There is, without a doubt, a contingency in this ward that feels they are somehow better and better equipped educationally to be stewards and in some cases shepherds of the lowly rest of us, I felt that way during the ward committee nominating process as I made clear to the co-chairs, and I feel that even more so today.
I find it very odd that you have resorted to the “Tea Party Republican” defense of telling the opposing party they are suffering from a case of “sour grapes,” it is a tact that only belies your defensiveness.
I have no agenda other than to see my city and my ward rise to the challenges that face us. Of course you are proud of your ward, the outcome was favorable to your position, writing condescending puff pieces to that end does not change the fact that something stinks in this process and it doesn’t look like the smell is going away any time soon.
posted by: Optional on July 21, 2013 11:45am
And I resent my actions being called “stupid” I believe we stopped using that term somewhere around 3rd grade. Time to grow up.
posted by: lawrence st on July 21, 2013 1:55pm
I did not run the meeting. Cristina and Lauren asked me to take roll, call the names, and record votes.That is what I did. I also notified the co-chairs of the time, as many people needed to get home to their babysitters.
Also, I can assure you that at the last nominating convention, non-ward committee members were not allowed to ask questions. I know, because I tried to ask a question, and was told I could not because I was not a member.
There were a lot of questions last time (from members), and there were a lot of questions this time, during the part where there were candidates who had opposition. There was also a lot of time to talk between the mayoral/city clerk Q and A and the vote. This is what makes ward committee great, and makes me glad to be part of it.
I do apologize for using juvenile language. You are right, that was immature of me, and I should not have done it.
posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 21, 2013 4:47pm
Ha now I know who Lawrence street is. Question who picks the ward committee members? the list I saw was very few people.
posted by: Cristina Cruz-Uribe on July 22, 2013 2:52pm
As one of the co-chairs in ward 9, I wanted to thank everyone who participated in our nomination convention. It was great to bring together such a diverse group of neighbors to meet candidates and discuss our city’s future. I am also grateful to our ward committee secretary, who helped our meeting and vote run smoothly. Hopefully this was the only first neighborhood forum with candidates. I believe my fellow co-chairs and I learned a lot about how to organize these events this time around, and look forward to hosting another in the future.