Goldson Says He’s Running

Thomas MacMillan PhotosIt looks like New Haven may have a competitive election after all for a newly vacant State Senate seat.

Former West Rock Alder Darnell Goldson announced Friday that he will seek the 10 State Senate District seat as an “independent Democrat”—i.e. a petition candidate, not a party-endorsed candidate.

If he gathers to signatures to make the ballot, he will likely face Gary Holder-Winfield, who has already started running for the position. Holder-Winfield, a Democratic state representative, said he has put together a team and drawn up his papers to run for the seat, for which he’ll seek the nomination of the Democratic Party.

The seat became vacant this week when Toni Harp, who held it for the past 21 years resigned because of her new job as mayor of the city of New Haven.

The district covers about half of New Haven as well as part of West Haven. Holder-Winfield was the first candidate to emerge publicly for the seat. Democratic Town Chairman Jackie James originally took steps to run, then landed a job at City Hall instead.

The special election will take place Feb. 25, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Friday.

A Holder-Winfield - Goldson match-up would pit two politicians with independent backgrounds against each other.

First elected as a state representative in 2008 in an insurgent campaign against the party machine, Democrat Holder-Winfield has made a name for himself at the state Capitol on issues like the death penalty and school reform. Now he wants to bring that record to the Senate.

The top issue in this special election is experience, Holder-Winfield said in an interview.

“My campaign is based on a history of having demonstrated leadership and at the same time ability to work in a team,” he said. “Toni had been there for [21] years and had significant impact. We need somebody in that space who can get in, get moving, and do the job right away. It’s really about experience and being able to pick up where Toni left off.”

Holder-Winfield said he has begun phoning town committee members who will serve as delegates to a 10th District Democratic Party nominating convention for the special election.  “Every call I’ve made so far has been positive,” he said.

Holder-Winfield ran for mayor earlier this year, then dropped out and endorsed Harp’s candidacy before the Democratic primary.

For this Senate campaign, Holder-Winfield said, he has engaged the services of consultant Patrick Romano of DNA Campaigns. He is not naming an official campaign manager.

In an interview Friday, Goldson said he feels he has the most experience in the race.

“I’ve been in this ward over 30 years. At every level I’ve worked behind the scenes and up front,” Goldson said. Besides serving as an alder, he worked on the staff of former U.S. Rep. Bruce Morrison, helped staff two state legislative committees, and served on several gubernatorial and U.S. Senate campaigns for candidates from different parties, including the campaign of Republican Senate hopeful Linda McMahon. (Read here about how his home was vandalized during that campaign.) He also joined a short-lived national independent-politics movement called “No Labels.”

Goldson pledged to raise no more than $1,000 in the raise. He said he won’t bother seeking the Democrats’ endorsement at the upcoming special-election convention. As a Democratic alder, he often ran afoul of party leaders by questioning official actions and dissenting from the majority.

“To me this isn’t a campaign of about getting endorsements from people or raising money from people. This is about grassroots democracy,” he said. “I’ve never felt comfortable getting the endorsement of the party. I don’t’ want to be beholden to special interests.”

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posted by: ELMCITYPROF on January 10, 2014  10:01am

Interesting development.  While competition us always healthy for democracy I can’t help but remember how Goldson sold his soul to the McMahon campaign in a ridiculous effort to win minority voters. Remember all those campaign workers in new haven who had to seek media attention to force McMahon to pay them? Where was Goldson then?  Seems disingenuous to talk about your independent orientation while supporting someone who ran a very partisan campaign with scant attention to issues of priority to the types of voters Goldson supposedly cared about.

Good luck gentlemen.

posted by: AnIndependent on January 10, 2014  10:07am

Sure sounds like a David vs Goliath battle, Big Money and connections vs the Scrapper. I was starting to worry that this was going to be boring, but that is never the case when Goldson is involved.

posted by: robn on January 10, 2014  10:47am

I’ve been wondering why Darnell has been so polite to the Harp administration in the comment threads. In any event, I’ve given him a hard time in the past but the guys got spunk. Highly tuned BS detector.

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on January 10, 2014  11:15am

ELMCITYPROF, I’m in full agreement. The rhetoric about the righteousness of being “independent” in New Haven has now been raised to an absurd level. The opposition between “machine” and “independent” only really takes on significance when you factor in the ideologies, positions, and policies that drive individuals to form coalitions or oppose them. In Goldson’s case, “opportunist” seems to be a better label than “independent.”

I’m all for independent political candidates, but I’m not going to vote for one just because they’re running as independents. I’d vote for Bernie Sanders in a heartbeat. Joe Liberman & Charlie Crist? No thanks.

AnIndependent: Given the fact that Goldson worked on Linda’s $50 million bid for a Senate seat, I can only assume that he is the one you are aligning with Big Money and Connections?

posted by: DRAD on January 10, 2014  11:19am


Thank you so much for your post!  I like to think that I’m pretty aware of much of the political “fun” in our town, but this had escaped me.  Supporting Linda McMahon makes Mr. Goldson unfit to hold any office, anywhere!  After trying to install a right-wing, 1%er in the U.S. Senate, it takes it big helping of arrogance to try to pass yourself off as a a champion of “grass roots democracy”!

posted by: HewNaven on January 10, 2014  11:36am

I like how Goldson paints himself as independent of the parties. That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, that independence also allowed him to endorse Linda McMahon and work for her campaign. I’ll never trust this man’s judgement after that. And, claiming to be more fit than GHW, please!?

I also wonder if Harp put him up to this. He’s been a staunch defender of the administration during their rough and rocky start, even defending Smart. Shill, perhaps? Or maybe just a Harp loyalist? But if a loyalist then, why the claim of being independent from the Democratic party establishment. Harp is everything but independent of that beast. She was ushered in by the party establishment at the expense of a true independent candidate, Justin Elicker. Smells like Goldson is only independent when its convenient or him.

posted by: robn on January 10, 2014  11:49am

Whoops,  Forgot about Linda MacMahon.

posted by: 32knot on January 10, 2014  11:55am

It seems to be that to run for office in New Haven one must pass a litmus test, have in the past, rigidly toeed party line and never made any mistake in anything, unless you are the annointed canidate. It looks like people are dumping on DG because he supported a canidate that a far number did not like. ” opportunist”, that is the very definition of political canidates and may be applied to recent winners of office(s). We should all get off our “pulpits” and remember what a tough, nasty games politics really is. We should also remember not to toss stones at canidates when our favorite canidates may be made of glass too.

I don’t live in that district but I think that the people will be well served by whoever wins.

posted by: citoyen on January 10, 2014  12:03pm

I can’t say I have any intention to vote for him, but this good discussion here is exactly why there need to be *contested* elections in New Haven.

Thank you, Mr. Goldson, for stepping up and running.

We as a city need to resolve to want NO MORE ONE-CANDIDATE ELECTIONS!

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on January 10, 2014  12:22pm

Your sermon would be appropriate if not for one glaring fault: Politicians who thrive on toeing the party line until that line no longer holds them, then criticize party politics are simply opportunists. A true

I am an independent voter. That independence is defined by the values, policy positions, and priorities I hold that do not neatly fit with any one party.  Nor do I believe that all candidates who run under a party banner share the same views (think McCain vs Cruz on immigration).

That said I have a particular disdain for politicians who toe a party line as long as it serves their political interests yet re brand themselves as an Independent just to win office. Independence isn’t some default category for people who fall out of favor with voters. Goldson and others like him deny the value of that affiliation by showing that their loyalty rests not with the voters they pretend to represent but with their own interests in gaining office.

Please don’t try to cheapen this political discourse, the essence of democracy,  by painting a pity party for your friend. Politicians aren’t beyond critique

posted by: darnell on January 10, 2014  12:24pm

I don’t know if responding to anonymous comments is the smartest thing to do, but…
I worked for Jesse Jackson’s first presidential campign as his NE regional field director, and then on the advance team (, was I a sell out then? I worked on Republican turned Independent Lowell Weicker’s gubernatorial campaign, was I a sell out then? I worked on political upstart Bruce Morrison’s first successful primary and general election campaigns, was I a sell out then? I worked for a small non profit with the mission to assist dropouts with returning to school and/or getting their GEDs, and brought 16 young African American and Hispanic youth to Obama’s 1st inauguration for 3 days (, was I a sell out then.

I’ll put my experience and street creed up against ANYONE in this city.

I’ve been Independent all of my life, it comes from the Native American and freedman blood flowing through my family genealogy. I believe that there should ALWAYS be a dissenting voice in the room, to keep the debate honest.

I am not an apologist for the Harp administration, but I do believe that she should be given a fair shake, after 20 years of the previous administration, there will be some hiccups at the beginning of this admin. And there will be plenty of time to critique her performance over the next 2 years.

As with Smart, I have been falsely accused of misdeeds, so I am very careful to have ALL the facts before passing judgement. That is the American way of justice, isn’t it?

You all can ignore the facts, but this campaign will truly be a Darnell vs Goliath matchup; me with my limited resources, and because of my independence a lack of “establishment” support, vs Gary with all his money and connections.

But like David, I’m not afraid of the possibility of losing, as long as I hold true to my beliefs.

See you all on the streets.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on January 10, 2014  12:26pm

Not only was Goldson a paid shill for McMahon, but he also lied to the press about it:

But putting that aside, Darnell is priceless as an entertainer, and he’d likely get my vote in support of his NHI comedic value, if only I lived in the district.

Long live Darnell!

posted by: robn on January 10, 2014  12:38pm


Mike Smart instructed his staff to do something illegal and put the instructions in an official city memo. What other “facts” are you waiting for before you pass judgment?

posted by: darnell on January 10, 2014  1:28pm


I am not referring to the memo thing. Smart owned up to his mistake and made corrections. It was a dumb mistake, and I would have been the first to oppose it if he had not stepped to the plate.

What I am referring and responding to was the AB thing. I am still convinced, from working in politics for many many years, that oftentimes people mistake the AB application for the ballot. I know Smart well enough to believe that he is smart enough not to get anywhere near an actual ballot. It is my belief that the folks filing the complaint misrepresented Smart’s involvement in this thing. Perhaps someone with less knowledge an experience may have mishandled an AB, we certainly will not know until he investigation is completed, but I am 99% sure that Smart was not involved

I would make this defense for anyone, friend or foe.

posted by: Noteworthy on January 10, 2014  1:32pm

Independent and Experienced Notes:

1. GHW is not an independent - that’s how he started and back then, he was inexperienced too. Now, he’s ESTABLISHMENT through and through. So we have gone from an inexperienced, independent politician to an experienced establishment politician. 

2. GHW votes in lockstep with Democrat Party - down the line, even when it’s bad public policy.

3. Consider these issues. Did GHW ever vote NO? 

•Using debt to pay state operating expenses?

•New gun laws that didn’t address urban violence?

•Suppressing government information on crime scenes and Sandy Hook, a law that was hatched in secret?

•Reneging on campaign finance reform, a move that was hatched in secret and opens the floodgates to special interest money?

•Expansion of gambling so Connecticut families who can least afford it, will be confronted with KENO at 1,000 locations in the state, a law change that was hatched in secret, with no public hearings or input from gambling addiction experts?

•Approved a violation of the state spending cap in the last budget and negated 1 million votes by Connecticut taxpayers who tied the cap to the income tax?

•Raising the largest income tax and gas tax in the history of Connecticut?

•Raiding the gas tax fund so there isn’t enough money to build/repair roads/bridges?

•Expanded the sales tax so that more of what we need to buy is taxed? 

•Applied a permanent sales tax to our homes?

•Passed new taxes this year including $500 million in hospital taxes which makes healthcare more expensive?

4.Experience among the Dome Dwellers is overrated and under-defined.

posted by: darnell on January 10, 2014  1:32pm


I have been fairly independent all of my life, as evidenced by my active support for a wide range of candidates, Dems, Rep and Ind. So I ask you, when was I “toeing the party line”?

posted by: darnell on January 10, 2014  1:40pm

I just noticed that my contact information as not included in this article, so here it is for any of you interested.

Darnell Goldson
phone:  (203) 806-0411
email:  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

posted by: Razzie on January 10, 2014  2:54pm

darnell on January 10, 2014 11:24am

“I don’t know if responding to anonymous comments is the smartest thing to do, but…”

You should take your own advice, DG.

You won’t win any race, or score any knockout blows, by back and forth accusations in the NHI. You are not running against the people who post here, so you are best served by spending your time and energy where things matter.

posted by: abg22 on January 10, 2014  3:02pm

why is No Labels “short-lived?” I’m guessing they would take issue with that

posted by: sandstorm on January 10, 2014  3:22pm

Darnell Goldson’s candidacy makes a mockery of public service. His lapses of ethics and morals are well documented. His employment with the City of New Haven and Community Action Agency were both severely tainted; his abuse of power and money should discourage any endorsement.

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on January 10, 2014  4:25pm

Razzle is right. Goldson isn’t running against the people who post here. On the contrary he is running to represent the people who post here. Why then try to stifle discourse?  The notion that he should only engage those who post their name is silly.  Does it make the exchange any more valuable if I list my name as BilboBaggins?  Or does it mean you feel more comfortable trying to ascertain some imagined political motivation?

posted by: HewNaven on January 10, 2014  5:18pm

Elm City Prof,

Agreed. The argument that one should not respond to pseudonymous accusations is a red herring, or at least an excuse to avoid debate. I could just as easily make up real-sounding name than to use an alias like HewNaven, but what would be the point? Would that make my comments seem more legit? Furthermore, people using their actual real names are less likely to speak honestly or become whistleblowers when the opportunity arises for fear of retaliation.

I think its foolish to use one’s legal name and I’ve always taken Oscar Wilde’s advice instead. I would urge others to do the same.

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. ~ Oscar Wilde.

posted by: darnell on January 11, 2014  12:34am

I value the ability to be able to directly interact with folks through the NHI. Sometimes it is a little frustrating to have anon people make statements that are patently untrue, like sandstorms statement that my “employment with the City of New Haven and Community Action Agency were both severely tainted”. In regards to CAA, I proved through interaction with the courts that I was unfairly and falsely accused, and received a large cash settlement for my troubles. With regards to my city employment, there is no record whatsoever of any problems. In fact I received several awards for my attendance and performance.

I wish Paul would not allow such unsubstantiated comments to slip through from anon sources, but it is what it is.

That being said, as ElmCityProf commented, I am running to represent the people who post here, so I certainly will not run away from engaging with them, whether or not they are nice to me.

posted by: Razzie on January 11, 2014  10:07am


My central point is that DG can spend his time responding to ad hominem attacks like SANDSTORM, ROBN and ASCOOPER above; or he can get before the voters of the 10th Senatorial District and explain his program and his vision for New Haven/West Haven. The choice is his. But there is precious little time to waste in a Special Election.

This doesn’t involve stifling debate, or even reacting to the anonymous nature of the postings. (You are right, it really doesn’t matter whether BilboBaggins or some named poster is the one slandering my name or misstating my positions).

posted by: UBHolden on January 11, 2014  10:51pm

I hope Gary Holder Winfield proves a better campaigner this time around then when he ran for Mayor.  His Mayoral campaign was comatose and disappointed a lot of people.  Just because there isn’t any really opposition yet, he should not assume he is a shoo-in.

posted by: MoNel on January 11, 2014  11:49pm

I know both men pretty well & have a tremendous amount of respect for them as men and hard workers on behalf of new haven residents.  I have absolutely no doubt at all the both men are completely qualified to serve as the next state senator.  Good luck gentlemen !!!!

Moses N.

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on January 13, 2014  1:24pm

Any thoughts on whom Elicker, Fernandez, and Carolina might endorse? It would seem that building an alliance with either of the 3 candidates could hold important implications for the next Mayoral race. Especially if Candelaria succeeds in becoming the state’s first Latino Senator.