Harp Mailing Startles Jewish Federation

Apparently sagging in support among Jewish voters, Toni Harp’s mayoral campaign mass-mailed a last-ditch appeal—and may have stirred up more tsuris for itself in the process.

The mass mailing went to members of the Greater New Haven Jewish Federation.

Now the federation wants to know how the campaign got all the addresses and the mailing labels.

“It does appear to be our labels,” Federation President Sydney Perry said Monday afternoon.

Only three staff members have access to the mailing list and label-printing operation, according to Perry. She reported that all three said they had no idea how the labels may have ended up in the Harp campaign’s possession.

“I don’t know how it happened,” Perry said. “I know for sure that no one from the campaign ever approached us.”

She said that the federation received complaints Monday from members about the mailing. In some cases recipients’ names appeared on the labels in a way they appear only on Jewish federation mailings.

“We don’t sell our labels. We don’t give them out,” Perry said. “We are a non-profit. We never take a political position for one candidate or another. Our nonprofit status is a central part of what we hold dear.”

Harp, a Democrat, faces petitioning candidate Justin Elicker Tuesday in the election to succeed retiring 20-year incumbent Mayor John DeStefano.

In a conversation with the Independent Monday afternoon, Harp campaign manager Jason Bartlett apologized for the mailing, which Jewish voters received Saturday.

“They just wanted to reach out on behalf of Toni and express their support for Toni,” Bartlett said of the signatories to the letter. “We apologize if there was miscommunication or if one of our volunteers did something in error. It’s a long campaign. People didn’t intentionally try to put anyone’s 501(c)3 [status at risk]. They may have made a mistake. For that we apologize on their behalf and on behalf of campaign.”

Click here  and here to read the letter. (Apologies for the water stains. It was raining Saturday.)

While Harp has been the apparent frontrunner citywide during the current mayoral campaign, her campaign has visibly lacked support among Jewish voters in Westville, based on ward vote totals, the placement of lawn signs, and general word-of-mouth, along with extensive anecdotal observation. Harp, who is African-American and running to become the city’s first female mayor, enjoys broad African-American support, especially among black women.

Paul Bass PhotoThis weekend’s letter was signed by some high-profile New Haven Jews who do support Harp. Signatories include Matthew Nemerson (pictured), a leading candidate to serve as Harp’s development administrator if she wins Tuesday’s general election; attorney Mark Sklarz, a member of her development advisory team; city schools official Susan Weisselberg; Diaper Bank founder Joanne Goldblum; former Ward 25 Democratic Co-Chair Barbara Segaloff and her husband, attorney Jimmy Segaloff; arts promoter Thea Buxbaum; and former city tourism chief Jane Snaider.

“I wrote the letter,” said Nemerson. “The campaign sent out the letter. How did they get [the list]? I don’t know.”

The letter, dated Nov. 1 and addressed “Dear Friend,” appears on Harp campaign letterhead.

“We have seen polls about the probable results [of Tuesday’s election] and know that Toni Harp is far ahead, yet we are surprised at how few of our own friends and neighbors seem to be considering a vote for Toni,” the letter reads in part.

“Yes the other fellow is earnest and clearly estimable in his own right but we think you ought to seriously consider a vote for Toni Harp.”

The letter discusses her extensive experience and “her humility.” It dismisses the argument that she lacks “the fire in her belly”: “She’s been prepping for this job for 30 years—she just did not go around telling people about it.”

The letter also takes on the insider argument cited by some Harp opponents:

“Some tell us that to have so many prominent political endorsements from elected officials is somehow an ‘issue.’ Really? Gov. Malloy, US Sen. Murphy, US Sen. Blumenthal, Rep. DeLauro, Majority Leader Looney, Senate President Williams, and other leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly and almost the entire board of aldermen have endorsed her. This is unprecedented. Can you really think of a better situation than to have the respect and admiration of your peers, especially when these people control access to billions of dollars that might be able to help cities like New Haven? Having a candidate with no enemies and so many powerful friends who actually WANT her to succeed is so rare—why would we pass up this opportunity?”

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posted by: TheMadcap on November 4, 2013  6:20pm

Oh cool two election shenanigans related to the Harp campaign in a week. It’s kind of disconcerting when a campaign that will probably win easily minus some big upset has to do this anyways.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 4, 2013  6:45pm

Bring back DeStefano!

posted by: Bill Saunders on November 4, 2013  7:10pm

We will see Madcap.

Voter turnout in minority wards is abysmal, and their showing in this year’s primary was no different than past poor performances.

The minute free-thinking people throw statements out there like ‘Harp will probably win easily”, they are playing into the hand of power.

posted by: NYCcroc on November 4, 2013  7:12pm

Bring Back Ben DiLieto.

posted by: HewNaven on November 4, 2013  7:27pm

She’s not way ahead. She’s an establishment candidate, picked by the party and banking on 20 years of returns, and she’s still neck-and-neck with an independent, grass-roots, locally-funded candidate. If she was way ahead her campaign wouldn’t keep making these stupid desperate mistakes.

posted by: Pantagruel on November 4, 2013  7:31pm

When will the dubious ethical moves of team Harp end? Do you have any reason to believe it will end if she is elected?

Before you vote. Think.

Noch di chupeh iz shpet di charoteh.
After the wedding it’s too late to have regrets.


posted by: anonymous on November 4, 2013  7:33pm

This is what happens when you have a candidate like Harp with zero Executive experience. Poor attention to detail resulting in disaster.

posted by: Noteworthy on November 4, 2013  7:40pm

If your sensibilities have not been offended yet with the stead drip of disclosures about the Harp family integrity dance, this should put the icing on it. A spokesperson, not Toni Harp takes responsibility ... sort of but without saying how they got the list. If none of the staff gave it up, then it likely came from one of the signatories. Will one of them own it? Or just play dumb?

posted by: getyourfactstraight on November 4, 2013  7:58pm

Oy Vey! More wrong doing and stepping over the line once again…...scary stuff along with misuse and dishonesty…..not my type of person to elect for mayor. You are judged by the people you associate with. You are judged by the people making decisions for you. You are judged by the type of integrity your campaign displays.
Elaine Braffman

posted by: getyourfactstraight on November 4, 2013  8:05pm

PS> Thank you Sydney Perry for your honesty and protecting the integrity of the Jewish Federation!

posted by: citoyen on November 4, 2013  8:08pm

We are all on notice about how a Toni Harp administration would act.

posted by: TheMadcap on November 4, 2013  8:40pm

I don’t think that will be the case(well, relatively, I mean turnout as a whole in the last election was what, 25% I think? And that was the first time in 18 years DeSteffano was really being challenged) at least in certain areas. While turnout is still in The Hill/Dwight or Fair Haven, the union GOTV efforts in Newhallville/Dixwell have to their credit been pretty impressive in 2011/11/12. It’s also not good that out of minority areas, the main areas are have Fair Haven, Hill/Dwight, and NewHall/Dixwell. Two of these areas will probably go to Harp pretty easily, and one of them has decent turnout. The third, Fair Haven, may go to harp, but Elicker’s team has also been campaigning hard in it, if it does go for Elicker, but turnout is low, that won’t bode well.

posted by: oliveandchapel on November 4, 2013  8:55pm

Wow, Elicker supporters are so reflexively inclined to jump all over Harp for this and call it “corruption.”  How about some evidence and reasoned debate? Has the author of this article seen the list that this mailing originated from, and have you compared it to the supposed formatting of the Federation’s mailing list? Otherwise you are trafficking in thinly sourced hearsay. Similarly perplexing is your citing “anecdotal” evidence (lawn signs? really?) of soft Jewish support.  Further, assuming the list did come from the Federation, are Elicker supporters actually implying a theft of the list by the Harp campaign? Is it not much more likely that a Harp-friendly staffer inside the Federation supplied the list? Why direct ire at the Harp campaign for reaching out to a constituency?  This is silliness.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 4, 2013  8:57pm

Write In Bloomberg.

posted by: Westville voter on November 4, 2013  9:40pm

It appears that the federation’s list was stolen. They need to demand a criminal investigation, lest people suspect that they gave it out and now regret it.

posted by: Fairhavener on November 4, 2013  10:20pm

Hardly a scandal by Harp campaign standards. Future “leader” of New Haven? Sigh.

posted by: Citizen X on November 4, 2013  10:42pm

On the eve of the election, I want to say that Justin Elicker has run the most negative and pandering campaign I’ve ever seen. He’s propped up insignificant and failed black candidates for the lone purpose of looking like he has black friends. His entitled following has run a smear campaign against Toni Harp’s deceased husband.

Very sad. Very cynical. Very disappointing to see East Rock behave this way. An Elicker administration would be both divisive and segregated. I hope New Haven doesn’t follow done the path of this ineffectual young cynic.

posted by: cswir on November 4, 2013  10:43pm

Having non-profit lists and not using it for fundraising is not rocket science. This was not an accident. Bravo to Sydney Perry for not tolerating this. I hope she files a complaint and gets to the bottom of this. New machine is far worse than the old one. People are going to yearn for those days.  Good luck New Haven, you might need it.

posted by: state st on November 4, 2013  10:56pm


posted by: HhE on November 5, 2013  1:22am

I do not think one needs Dr. Henry Lee on the case.  Helen Keller could solve it.  Mr. Nemerson acquired the labels, with or without the help of one of the three people who had access.

posted by: obi on November 5, 2013  6:49am

Nemerson would have the most to gain from this article.  If he wrote the letter as he stated he knew at time the addresses were available and from whom. Otherwise why write the letter? Should she win this is just the beginning. When Smart was indicated by a tenant in senior housing of picking up a ballot she would have been smart to remove him from ticket.  But she kept him, are they all working together in this voter fraud? Its to bad County, Webster, Bristol, Dickerman St. and Dixwell Av. senior housing wasn’t looked into.  If done one might find the same activity IE BALLOTS being picked up by her campaign was done.

Yesterday around midday immediately following a Harp ad was one with Jason. Jason did one for Comcast.  So now Comcast can be added to her list.

posted by: Art Vandelay on November 5, 2013  8:12am

If this is how she runs a campaign, imagine how she’s going to run the city.

posted by: disconnect on November 5, 2013  8:56am

“On the eve of the election, I want to say that Justin Elicker has run the most negative and pandering campaign I’ve ever seen.”

Wow. Just, wow. Every time I think I’ve seen The Most Idiotic Comment Yet, you guys go and push the envelope. Here’s a small story about how the Harp campaign fouled up and nobody knows exactly what happened, and really this shouldn’t be news to anyone who knows anything about her history (I bet she’s as baffled as anyone!). Response? OMG ELICKER HORRIBLE.

I hope to god Justin Elicker is New Haven’s new mayor. And I hope that everyone who dislikes him because he’s white can see past their knee-jerk dismissal of him. He’ll make your city work better.

posted by: Westville Mom on November 5, 2013  9:01am


Almost the identical tactic was used in the McAuliffe campaign in VA:

[UPDATED] Breaking: Democrats Seized Jewish Emails for McAuliffe Campaign
Nicole Bailey | Nov 04, 2013


posted by: Noteworthy on November 5, 2013  10:07am

Stolen List Notes:

1. The Harp campaign got a private mailing list. It was unauthorized. Therefore it was stolen and intentionally used for political gain.

2. Why can’t the Harp campaign just tell the truth?

3. In 2007, then Gov. Jodi Rell used a state agency mailing list for political gain. The dome dwelling dems made it a big deal.

“...Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo, who said: ``Let’s stop the parsing of the words, and start telling the truth: Did they do it, or didn’t they? How can they not remember?’‘

The same is true now.

posted by: DanielleTiger on November 5, 2013  10:38am

@ Citizen X, nowhere from this article should the reader infer that this situation was created by the Justin Elicker campaign to smear the Toni Harp campaign.  Also, no one has been a bigger and more negative mud slinger in these comment sections than you calling Mr. Elicker and his supporters on October 16, 2013, “a bunch of Republicans in Democrat clothes.”  You also seem to be under the misguided belief that only rich people from East Rock support Justin Elicker.  Yes he does have a strong following there.  I would hope so since he was a most excellent alderman there.  However, myself and most of my friends to not live in East Rock and none of us are rich.  We are big Justin Elicker supporters and are excited by the changes his future administration would bring to New Haven.

posted by: junebugjune on November 5, 2013  12:25pm

Two responses to Citizen X:

1) “He’s propped up insignificant and failed black candidates for the lone purpose of looking like he has black friends.”

Your dismissal of Elicker’s relationship with Carolina is troubling.  Nemerson “failed” long before Carolina did but Carolina is insignificant?  Even before the primary each mentioned an inclination toward supporting one another in case they didn’t have a strong enough showing in the primary.  You attempt to call Elicker out for “trying to look like he has black friends,” but your dismissal of Carolina makes me question whether you’re an authority I should trust on the subject of race relations.

2) “His entitled following has run a smear campaign against Toni Harp’s deceased husband.”

Toni has NEVER taken responsibility for this issue and I can’t figure out why her supporters keep bringing it up.  If she had said “I was not aware of these issues, but now that I am our family will do what it takes to rectify them because the well-being of New Haven residents is important to us” as opposed to “don’t look at me, that was my husband/son. This is a smear campaign!” I might have supported her.  To me, that was the defining issue of her campaign.  It is not a smear campaign because it is true, obviously it’s an important issue to voters, and it says ALOT about her character.  It is beyond aggravating for Toni to claim that she is being smeared while tenants in her families buildings are living in squalor and New Haven residents are paying taxes through the nose even as her family repeatedly fails to meet their commitment as tax payers.

Everyone, I hope you take the time to vote today and arm yourself with information.  New Haven deserves a good strong leader.