You Haven’t Heard The Last Of Sundiata Keitazulu

Thomas MacMillan PhotoAs he dropped out of the mayor’s race and endorsed Toni Harp, Newhallville plumber Sundiata Keitazulu said he might run again in the future, for alderman—or governor.

Keitazulu (pictured with Harp) made those statements on Friday afternoon on Brisol Street in Dixwell, where he joined state Sen. Harp for a campaign event at Edith Johnson senior housing.

Keitazulu announced he’s abandoning his candidacy for the Democratic mayoral nomination in order to support Harp. He called her “the voice of the people,” an honor he’d previously claimed for himself.

Keitazulu’s campaign for mayor was always a quixotic quest. A plumber with a criminal record and no political experience, no campaign cash, and no network of support, Keitazulu was nevertheless the very first candidate to file papers to run, way back in November 2012. He earned applause at debates for his unpolished opinions on poverty and for his single-minded promotion of vocational education in public schools.

Eventually, however, he decided he didn’t have a chance, Keitazulu said Friday.

“I had to look at it realistically,” he said, wearing wrap-around shades and new pinstriped suit.

“We as a community must unite,” he said. “Toni Harp is the best candidate. She’s for the working class.”

Campaigning door to door, Keitazulu said he heard Harp’s name more than any other candidates. She has popular support, he said.

Keitazulu said he had gathered enough signatures to run as an independent in the general election. “I made a decision. We do not want to divide the vote.”

Asked about his own political future, Keitazulu said, “I might try to run for alderman” in two years.

“I might get in the governor’s race,” he said later. “All these political arenas are for everybody, not just for the privileged.”

As she officially accepted his endorsement, Harp called Keitazulu “one of the most interesting persons” to join the mayor’s race. “His ideas are really important.”

Asked about Keitazulu’s signature issue, Harp said vocational education has to be “an opportunity in each of our high schools.”

Harp said she’s looking into the possibility of New Haven public schools students using the facilities at Hamden’s Eli Whitney vocational school in the afternoons, after the end of Hamden’s school day.

Keitazulu said he plans another endorsement announcement Saturday at 1 p.m. in his home neighborhood at Lincoln Bassett school.

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posted by: cedarhillresident! on August 2, 2013  2:39pm

Harp fest

posted by: Razzie on August 2, 2013  2:56pm

Bravo to “the Plumber”! He was an impressive presence in this race that spoke directly to the less privileged among New Haveners. The 4 remaining candidates all have the personal and financial means to carry on this race—Keitazulu does not. I am impressed that he has the presence of mind and selflessness to stop his race and join forces with the one candidate that best reflects the interests of all New Haveners. This race is bigger than the individual egos and ambitions of the remaining candidates. Carolina needs to focus on making Hillhouse HS (one of the city’s premier educational institutions) work. Fernandez needs to put his consulting talents to good use and build better bridges to New Haven residents before he attempts to lead. Elicker certainly needs to spend more time in New Haven learning the interests and needs of its citizens beyond the cozy confines of East Rock. Each of those 3 have talents to offer, this can begin right now—and not wait until November. Put petty grievances aside and join Toni Harp in making New Haven better.

posted by: JohnTulin on August 2, 2013  2:58pm

Hats off to Mr Keitazulu - he broke the mold, worked hard, and raised important points that now can’t be ignored.  Fight the fight, Sundiata - New Haven needs people just like you!

posted by: HhE on August 2, 2013  3:21pm

Well played:  get your 15 minutes, and then parlay that for some more by endorsing the easy option.  Kind of predictable too. 

While there is plenty of (partisian) analysis of the candidates, there is little thought about their true stratgic objectives, operational concepts, and what ever there is about tactics, it is not how those tactics fit into the other two.

posted by: Curious on August 2, 2013  4:53pm

Sundiata made the most noise speaking out against politicians who won’t even go in the neighborhoods he walks in freely, pols who have no concept of what life is really like for much of New Haven.

To see him endorse Toni, who has demonstrated that she’s the epitome of the kind of politician Sundiata railed against, is hypocrisy at it’s worst…or maybe opportunism at it’s best?  That’s a nice new suit.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 2, 2013  5:09pm

I thought you was the voice of the people.I see other wise.May Be all plumbers are the same.

posted by: Razzie on August 2, 2013  5:59pm

correct me if I am wrong, but Sundiata never “railed against politicians” (in general). He did, on a few occasions have specific concerns about Carolina and Fernandez, and to a lesser degree Elicker. But what made him so unique a candidate in my eyes was his insistence in affirmatively promoting a substantive agenda—jobs and vocational education—to the exclusion of taking cheap verbal shots at his opponents (e.g. a nice house, what one’s family and relatives do, a long-dead husband’s business affairs, her age, etc). The only other candidate that refrained from personal attacks and stuck to the issues and vision for the future was Toni Harp. No wonder that he embraced Sen. Harp in the same manner as Nemerson and Gary Holder-Winfield before him.

The only hypocrisy I see is in the views of those who soundly embraced his candidacy and his ideas at the start of this race, but who now seek to malign his character as they sought to attack the decisions of Nemerson and GHW to embrace the Toni Harp campaign. Nothing has changed with Keitazulu ... except the perspectives of those who now speak ill of him and his imputed motives.

posted by: wendy1 on August 2, 2013  6:47pm

I volunteered for SK because he said he would stick it out through thick and thin and I asked him not to endorse TH at all.  I have defended him until now.  He did not tell me he was making this disastrous move.  Last week he asked me to print up labels and try to raise more $$ and he was going to print up yard signs.  Now I just hope I can get my loaned bullhorn back.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on August 2, 2013  7:56pm

Good call 3/5ths

Curious just when you think there is a voice of the people…big money comes and and stifles it. I thought for sure the plumber was a stronger man than that…they must of offered him something really good.

posted by: HhE on August 2, 2013  8:50pm

Razzie, have you been taking notes from Xavier?

posted by: Greg-Morehead on August 2, 2013  9:47pm


So Kerm was right.  When Keitazulu was going off on a tangent at the debate on Water St and attacked EVERYONE except Harp, Kerm hit it on the head when he said that Harp paid him off.  And now look today, he endorses Harp.  I had some respect for Keitazulu up until that debate.  And now this.  I can’t believe it.  It’s a shame to see alot of people selling out to the Harp campaign most likely because of a handout.  Our city will NEVER get better politically when we keep doing things like this.  It ALWAYS puts the residents on the backend and the interest of their pockets in the forefront.  I’m just sayin! 
Thank God I was NEVER the type to support someone on the basis of what they can do for me, but I served on what I can do for my constituents.  #Goodole’Newhavenpolitics

posted by: Amityboy on August 2, 2013  9:52pm

..and the list of hypocritical cowards grows longer.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on August 2, 2013  11:12pm

While one candidate is endorsing, another is having his wife purposely arrested just to garner headlines for his disappointing campaign. Hey pal, who’s babysitting?

This campaign for mayor of New Haven has seen a couple of weak men abandon the idea of running on something substantive. But instead have spent their resources and the remaining 5 percent of their character, trying to castigate a woman that has amassed over the years an impressive resume of service, is laughable.

To Mr. Keitazulu’s credit, he understands that which is important to the voters and to the welfare of the future of the City of New Haven by endorsing Toni. Though he lacked the impressive elocution and command of the English language that others have displayed, one thing he never lacked throughout his quest to be mayor…and that is character.

As Henry and Kermit continue to team up to try and make Toni weak, they’ve only made her stronger in the eyes of the voters.  No man can ever try and beat down a woman and somehow expect to be regarded as impressive. I understand she’s a candidate and to a degree fair game.  But to talk about the woman’s husband in whom she just buried?  To try and associate her with being a slumlord when the “golden child” Henry knows better, is an embarrassing display. And to then put an electric collar on the other guy and plug it in when it’s his turn do the same, is downright gnarly. 

Toni has never mentioned Kermit’s suspension as principal of Hillhouse High School. Toni has never murmured a word of the many colossal failures of Henry the Great while at the city. Nor has she made light of the fact regarding Justin Kerekes/Ellicker’s inability to find his way out of East Rock without GPS.

When I see these guys begin to point the arrows at each other, instead of a woman all the time, then I will contemplate the idea of taking their campaigns seriously.

Just kidding!

posted by: ISR on August 3, 2013  11:46am

Hold the presses! Breaking NHI news: “Harp’s son says he’s voting for mommy!”

posted by: cedarhillresident! on August 3, 2013  5:03pm

YAHH Wendy! That bullhorn is a part of New Haven political history I hope you get it back! And I think alot of us that were routing him on were shocked that he went with the one candidate that represented EVERYTHINK he said he was against! Glad to see you did not drink the kool aid

posted by: Billy on August 3, 2013  7:06pm

@ Razzie and Brian L. Jenkins

The NHI comments area doesn’t need the kind of ridiculous Fox News sound bite portrayal you make about Justin. C’mon…can’t you throw something a little more intellectually rigorous into the conversation?!? I have seen Justin at community events and neighborhood meetings in every corner of this city over the past 9 months or more. He listens to the concerns of everyone he meets, and has included a lot of that feedback into his platform. You may not vote for him, but don’t disparage the hard work he’s done to move a progressive agenda forward with such paper-thin, grammar school commentary.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 3, 2013  11:16pm

Career politicians have built powerful political machines able to overpower most opposition. After all, blocks of votes are regularly purchased for the price of political favors, and backroom deals.

Sold My Soul

My struggles finally caught up with me, got the devil on my mind.He said I can make your life much better, just sign on the line.
I’ll give you anything you want,fill your life with riches.Happiness is not in the form of a struggle, are you ready to switch it?
Sign here I’ll get your soul,you get the life that you wanted.The sun rose the land dried; this was the new beginning.It seems like I was born to lose but I am dying to win.Sign your soul over to me and you can stillbelieve.

posted by: Razzie on August 4, 2013  12:59am

@ Billy

Sen, Harp doesn’t play harmonica. She doesn’t raise chickens and eggs in the backyard either. But if you bother to speak with any human services professional in this region, or poll any of the non-profit agency heads that service our citizens in need (I repeat, poll ANY human service professional or non-profit agency head) they will gladly tell you how her legislative accomplishments have pulled their fat out of the fire when assailed by the budgetary slash and burn specialists who populate these comment pages. And I must stress for your understanding that her deeds stretch far, far beyond the 9 months you claim to have been a student of Elicker. To me, any attempt to compare length of service between Harp and Elicker is frankly ridiculous. And I truly wish I had more history and accomplishments of Justin to compare and contrast. Unfortunately, such just doesn’t exist. When Toni was legislating for the good of New Haven residents, Justin was, literally, just a young lad growing up in New Canaan, CT. And if you bother to review his 75 Ideas Manifesto, I believe you will, like me, be struck with the overwhelming feeling that his New Canaan upbringing is the genesis of his issues statements for New Haven. Sadly, New Canaan is simply not New Haven. It never will be. My Mayor needs to be steeped in the knowledge and issues that will occur in New Haven everyday, in real time. That person is Toni Harp.

posted by: robn on August 4, 2013  9:07am

Good man. Bad endorsement.

posted by: Billy on August 4, 2013  1:35pm

@ Razzie

I have worked in direct service, non-profit settings in New Haven for the past 13 years. All of the positions I have held (and currently hold), and the programs I’ve worked in and overseen, have been, in some part, thanks to Senator Harp’s efforts in the general assembly. Those accomplishments are crystal clear to me, and not written off in any way. I’m grateful. I know hundreds of New Haven residents who are also grateful for the services and opportunities she worked hard to support.

HOWEVER, I don’t think that automatically qualifies her to be the mayor of New Haven. Moreover, I think all of that time in Hartford has led to Senator Harp NOT being connected to the day-to-day life in New Haven. The recent NHI article about her walkabout in Newhallville, and being “traumatized” by what she witnessed, demonstrates a degree of separation from what some people are struggling with in our city. Helping people by funding programs is one part of the solution, it helps to a point, but leaves us short of actually addressing the needs of a lot of people. Building power from within neighborhoods, rather than developing more programs, is the next step our city needs to take. I’m doubtful that Senator Harp is the best person to lead us in that direction.

posted by: Billy on August 4, 2013  2:25pm

Furthermore, I think that people with less years on the New Haven political scene - Justin or Kerm - could make a better mayor. Henry’s been a part of the political elite in the past, and has clear ways he can coast through with a top down approach. Senator Harp can also gather fellow political elites and insiders together to make decisions ON BEHALF OF the people. Justin and Kerm do not have that kind of insider status yet, and will need to govern utilizing partnerships with neighborhood-level leaders. Justin currently has the edge on Kerm, due to his knowledge of and experience with New Haven politics through his very active role on the Board of Alderman, and his frequent meetings with residents all over the city.

Lest we forget, progressives citywide called for change, and a breaking apart of the consolidated power of City Hall, the last few times DeStefano stood for reelection. We have an opportunity to spread that power more equally among the residents of New Haven. Choose wisely!

@ Razzie

There you go again with that “who does this kid from New Canaan think he is, being a effective, well-regarded leader in New Haven?” I gotta respect the consistency of oversimplification.

posted by: anonymous on August 4, 2013  5:06pm

Razzie: Regarding diversity, 1 in 4 New Haven residents speaks Spanish at home and of those, about half say they don’t speak English well.

Candidates who do not speak Spanish (all of them except Justin) aren’t really fit to lead a city that is as diverse as ours.

It isn’t 1989 anymore.  These days, we need a Mayor who can bring people together, which includes being able to talk directly to the tens of thousands of people who live here and speak Spanish.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on August 4, 2013  7:02pm

Is it legal for a convicted felon to run for office? Is it still illegal for a convicted felon to vote?

posted by: Righteous Cyclist on August 4, 2013  11:11pm

Justanothertaxpayer felons cannot vote neither can parolees. They SHALL HAVE voting rights restored upon request once parole is completed.

I admire the brother for running and for the issues he brought to the table. Te more I learned about him personally the more I wanted someone else to make take his position.

Robn, I’m glad he indorsed Senator Harp but it confused me. He wants trade schools. That’s all he wants. Wouldn’t someone like Kerm be a better person to take up that issue? Neither one will win it. I don’t think Kerm is in it to win it, but like Sundiata he has a short list of issues to bring up.

What’s sad is that nobody in my community cares about the issues to much or they aren’t aware. They support Toni for the wrong reasons instead of the right ones. There are so many right ones. They just know her name and here that she’s been in politics for 25 years but they don’t know about the long list of plans she has for the city. I think your guy does a better job of explaining what he’d do as mayor. That’s the only compliment you get me to pay him.

posted by: Razzie on August 5, 2013  8:40am

@ Anon

By your way of evaluation, Barack Obama isn’t fit to be Mayor of New Haven. Thanks for the insight.

@ Billy

I can appreciate your views, and those of others that are honestly arrived at. You have a preference for Elicker that I do not agree with, but that’s just me. I do react however, to commenters that toss out supposed metrics like “experience”, “character”, the house she lives in, who her late husband was. If they want to use such metrics, then they need be prepared to have their candidate judged likewise.

I don’t feel that Sen. Harp’s extensive legislative accomplishments automatically qualifies her to be Mayor. In my view, her qualifications extend to her demonstrated administrative experience as Director of Homeless Services at Hill Health Center, her clearly exhibited compassion for all New Haven residents—the “haves” as well as the “have nots”; and her demonstrated ability to forge working relationships with other political, community and business leaders, and her extensive set of resources that will be needed to govern effectively in the coming years.

posted by: Righteous Cyclist on August 5, 2013  10:39am

Razzie, I agree with you mostly but Barack Obama would be a terrible mayor for New Haven. He has no connections in OUR city, and he couldn’t go anywhere without massive security. And Elicker is more like President Obama than Toni Harp in terms of being a political unknown who rose to quickly. Look, how it worked out for Obama. Big vision, best ideas, but can’t get it done. That would be Elicker. To much of an idealist. Toni knows when to fight, and when to compromise. Politics is bloody business.

posted by: ramonesfan on August 5, 2013  11:46am

I don’t understand how anyone could seriously consider voting for Harp, given the property tax mess she’s entangled herself in.  If you think the city has budget problems now, just wait till this lady takes office.  She is a well meaning person, but Elicker seems like he’s got more intelligence and integrity.  Elicker is gonna need more of Greg Morehead’s help to get across the finish line, though.

posted by: Razzie on August 5, 2013  5:14pm

@ ramonesfan

Hey buddy, where have you been? Sen. Harp is not involved in any “property tax mess” as you refer to it. All the innumerable comments and postings over the last few months relate to a “Sales and Use tax” issue involving a business formerly run by her now deceased husband. Voting is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

posted by: ramonesfan on August 5, 2013  6:38pm

@ Razzie

Then I guess Ms. Harp ought to sue the New Haven Register, because a couple weeks ago they ran a story detailing her property tax woes.  Seemed like the reporter was pretty confident he had his facts right.