Harp: Let’s Debate 3 Times

Mayoral candidate Toni Harp Thursday challenged opponent Justin Elicker to a maximum of three debates. Elicker accepted, and opposed a limit on the number of match-ups.

Harp, a state senator, this month won the Democratic mayoral primary, capturing nearly half of the votes. Elicker, a city alderman, came in second place, and chose to run again in the general election as an independent candidate.

Harp’s debate challenge came in the form of a letter to Elicker from Harp campaign manager Jason Bartlett.

“Every voter deserves to know the candidates’ positions on important issues,” Bartlett is quoted as saying, in a campaign press release. “To that end, I would like to propose that we work toward an agreement for debates. The Harp Campaign will agree to a maximum of three mayoral debates.”

“I think it’s unfortunate they’re trying to limit the number of debates,” Elicker said. “I think it’s important that the New Haven community have as many opportunities as possible to hear the candidates. ... And to push my campaign to limit the number of debates will limit the amount of discussion and stifle that discussion around the city.”

Elicker said he’d like to have “as many [debates] as people want.”

“It’s traditional for the general election campaign to have three debates of the major party candidates,” responded Patrick Scully, spokesman for the Harp campaign. “That’s what the president did.”

Scully said even proposing three debates with Elicker constitutes “a bit of a courtesy” on the part of the Harp campaign.

“Mr. Elicker is not a major-party candidate,” Scully said. “He is a petitioning independent, which, the threshold is very low” to collect enough signatures for a spot on the ballot.

“We just don’t think the time is well spent doing fragmented single-issue debates,” Scully said.

“Mr. Elicker is absolutely wrong that it will limit discussion” to have only three debates, Scully said. The Harp campaign is “going to every single venue” to have discussions with voters, he said.

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posted by: Scot on September 19, 2013  6:10pm

I would like to see the candidates have more than 60 or 90 seconds (whatever it was at the Long Wharf debate) so that they can go into a little more detail about their positions if they’d like.

I would also like to see a combination of questions chosen by the moderators, but also give the candidates the opportunity to choose a few topics themselves.  This would allow them to pick a few subjects that they feel they are very different on.

posted by: AJF515 on September 19, 2013  6:15pm

“Scully said even proposing three debates with Elicker constitutes “a bit of a courtesy” on the part of the Harp campaign.”

If the “threshold is low,” then it seems to me that this is another instance of Harp acting out of fear. Like when she lied to voters a week before the primary.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on September 19, 2013  6:16pm

We need more than 3 debates! Far more!! This is a city of working class (some with long hours and several jobs). It is also important to have them in various locations so that all people have access to them!  The more debates we have the more people will have a chance to see them. I also think CTV should air them.

And Scully is a high priced consultant not a New Havener, I just don’t think he has a right to speak for us and tell us what is good fr us?!!

posted by: HewNaven on September 19, 2013  6:18pm

We need a poll for this one, please. I vote for several debates. There are a lot of topics to cover and the previous debates did not provide the time to dive into any single issue in a meaningful way. I’d like to see five-minute answers.

posted by: anonymous on September 19, 2013  6:46pm

Is a $9,000 donation required to meet with her?

She is unresponsive to most other citizen requests, but told the news that $9k from the suburbs would buy you a face to face meeting with her.

posted by: David S Baker on September 19, 2013  7:23pm

Harps people limiting debates as if THEY were in control of the situation is the biggest show of weakness I have seen in a campaign this election cycle.  Treating Elicker like Network TV treats libertarians is nonsense.  He’s the only opponent and he is a formidable one.  If Harps campaign is SO sure she has this in the bag, they should have the final debate the night before the election on network TV.  That way they can call each other out baseless accusations and ‘firehouse closure type’ smear campaigns while they have to look each other in the eye with us watching.

Have as many debates as the public requests or admit you do not take requests from the public.

posted by: Fairhavener on September 19, 2013  7:41pm

““Mr. Elicker is not a major-party candidate,” Scully said. “He is a petitioning independent, which, the threshold is very low” to collect enough signatures for a spot on the ballot.”

Yes, and exactly why Elicker is such a viable candidate; he stands for progress for New Haven, all of it, rich and poor, not the establishment and a continuation of the status quo.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on September 19, 2013  7:42pm

Who is Patrick Scully? And why is he acting in such an arrogant manner towards the second leading vote-getter in last week’s primary?

Luckily New Haven voters will have the final say in November, and not some hired flack who lives gosh knows where…

posted by: Webblog1 on September 19, 2013  7:42pm

With nearly 15 debates already under their belts, Harp and Elicker are out of new material, at least real non-contrived issues.

The questioners need to come up with substantive questions that have not already been asked and answered, which produced the similar answers between the two.

With only six weeks until Election Day it seems practical that debates be limited to three one on one debates. After all there are not 75 problems to debate about.

I believe the candidates should be given 15 minutes to lay out their platform and explain how it best fits into the city’s critical needs. Follow by 15 minutes of rebuttable each, then closing remarks.

After all, these debates are not about the focus being on the NHI, NHR, Lavoz, NBC or the Inner city news.

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on September 19, 2013  7:48pm

I’d like to see fewer debates and a more interactive format. Allow audience members to submit questions in advance for a townhall format rather than the typical prepackaged Q&A that reflects the ideological leanings of the event sponsors. Switch up the moderators to include fresh voices that are more representative of the communities at hand (e.g. what’s the point of hosting a debate about youth issues if it isn’t dominated by youth voices). Americans suffered from debate fatigue during the 2012 Presidential Primaries. Let’s move toward less performance and more substance.

posted by: P Christopher Ozyck on September 19, 2013  8:05pm

How about a few extra between Justin and Jason Bartlet. ...

posted by: Noteworthy on September 19, 2013  8:58pm

Scullywag Notes:

1. This is not a presidential campaign.

2. It is not a courtesy. It is a requirement.

3. I would strongly suggest you quit having Harp traipse around the city “meeting with groups” to blow smoke up their ears and debate with herself. The savings in time would allow Toni to study and do her homework so that her performance is a lot sharper than the previous 12.

posted by: True that on September 19, 2013  9:04pm

It makes sense for Harp to agree to just three debates:  she is an horrendous debater because she lacks the courage of her convictions, has no grasp of the issues, and has no presence.  Now Harp is getting Palin-esque:: let’s hide her from the public because she continuously screws up.  “Traumatized?”. “contributors don’t expect anything in return?”. “Party House in Bethany?”. Yup, she does quite well with the press and the public.  Just wondering, any chance any New Haven resident will see Toni in New Haven doing things like shopping for groceries, running errands, going to Starbucks or D &d?  For someone who lives in New Haven, she sure makes herself scarce in and around the city.

posted by: anonymous on September 19, 2013  9:27pm

The comment above, that Harp is the worst debater the city has ever seen, probably explains why she won’t take requests for meetings/debates.  For those familiar with Harp’s work, her debate performance came as a shock. She was practically incoherent on some topics. Lots of potential Harp supporters ran for other candidates after they heard her try to answer questions about specific issues - especially when compared to Elicker and Fernandez.

If there are debates I agree with the above that the candidates should have a 5-10 minute segment to comprehensively outline their priorities.

posted by: Greg-Morehead on September 19, 2013  11:10pm

With the 25 that we already had, we already know that JUSTIN is the more proficient and articulate candidate out of the two.  Harp does NOT know the issues.  I do NOT want to go to another debate and hear Toni start off all of her questions, “That was a great question”, or"That was a very important question”. We need to protest, NO MORE DEBATES!

posted by: robn on September 20, 2013  8:26am

The Harp campaigns disdain for voters is unbelievable. Many voters don’t pay attention to primaries because they have lives.  Likewise, Independents and Republicans didn’t participate. And yet unregistered citizens equals the total of registered voters.

This is clearly a ploy by Jason Bartlett to reduce the publics exposure to Harps abysmally poor and incoherent debate performance. Also probably more time to make rounds and gather $30,000 checks from PACs.

posted by: Champ358 on September 20, 2013  10:49am

Instead of the self-righteous Carolina posters who could only attack and had no program, the NHI has become the peanut gallery for Elicker supporters. While it is always possible that he can win, it will take a major upset to break out of his tight little circle of Orange St/Cove.

posted by: robn on September 20, 2013  2:24pm


Is the Harp family’s $1 million dollar tax evasion just a peanut? That’s a BIG peanut!

posted by: BenBerkowitz on September 20, 2013  8:34pm

What if voters got to debate with the candidate who wanted to have more debates? If both camps can only agree to three debates the candidate who wanted to do more could debate with random voters picked from the audience. A good Mayor will have to do more debating with citizens than political opponents so it might be good practice.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on September 21, 2013  8:09pm

I think that is a great idea ben! Debates are to talk about the issues and how a candidate will handle and fix them. If the candidate that does not want to do more than 3 and the other wants to do more because the issues are what this race is really about! Then lets roll with it!

posted by: anonymous on September 21, 2013  10:54pm

Various citizen groups who are interested in making New Haven a better place should simply schedule 10 debates, and then see which candidate(s) show up at them.