New Haven Democrats gave an overwhelming vote of confidence Tuesday to Mayor Toni Harp, as she clobbered challenger Marcus Paca in a party primary in which she won all 30 wards in the city.
Final returns showed Harp with 74.5 percent of the vote to Paca’s 25.5 percent. Counting absentee ballots, Harp received 5,788 votes to Paca’s 1,977.
Both camps had anticipated a closer race because of Paca’s energetic campaigning, contrasted with Harp’s lower-key style. Both sides in effect made the primary election a referendum on Harp’s first two terms in office, from her leadership style and budgeting record to her housing and criminal-justice and pro-immigrant policies.
With no alder races in nine-tenths of the city, and with a badly outspent challenger facing an incumbent with 30 years in elected office, turnout was anemic citywide: Only 7,765 — or 20 percent—of New Haven’s 38,341 registered Democrats cast ballots in the mayoral primary. By contrast, 13,397 Democrats voted in the 2011 mayoral primary, which featured four mayoral candidates and hotly contested alder races citywide. In 2013’s four-way primary for an open mayoral seat, 14,723 Democrats voted. (There was no Democratic primary in 2015.)
Three Democratic primaries for open alder seats also took place in the city Tuesday. Kim Edwards defeated Sarah Ofosu 373 to 151 (not counting machine votes) in Newhallville/Prospect Hill’s Ward 19. Renee Haywood defeated Robert Lee in a primary in Fair Haven Heights’ Ward 11. Michelle Sepulveda topped Charlie Delgado and Tosha James-Goldson in West Hills/West Rock’s Ward 30.
The two polling places with the highest turnout, at 45 percent (Bella Vista and Celentano School), also had alder elections.
Harp: We’re United, & Positive
At a raucous victory part at the new Vanity nightclub on Temple Street, without naming Paca, Harp took a shot at what she characterized as her opponent’s relentlessly negative campaign. She compared it to the divisive nature of national politics. Then she thanked the crowd for “reject[ing] the disparaging characterization of our great city and our people.”
(Click on the above video to watch her speech.)
“Division is exhausting and counterproductive,” Harp declared. “Frankly, I think we’re all just sick of it. It’s time to come together, to focus on what really matters, which is making sure that our communities are thriving.”
She also reaffirmed her support for New Haven’s sanctuary city policies.
“We will build bridges, not walls,” Harp declared to thunderous applause.
Paca Promises To Press On
Up the block on Temple, Paca’s own party was a muted affair, with about a dozen supporters gathering at the restaurant Ah-Beetz.
On the sidewalk, Paca conceded the primary to Harp and the “Democratic machine,” swearing that he’ll continue to run as an independent in the Nov. 7 general election — for now.
“The gap was huge,” he said of the results. “I’m not blind to the fact.”
Democratic voters didn’t turn out because they don’t feel galvanized, Paca said. The campaign will continue to stay positive, he added, as he aims to reach Democrats who didn’t vote, Republicans and independent voters with a message of “inspiration and hope.”
“I think I can make up a tremendous amount of ground during these next two months,” he said.
There a is historical precedent that 5,000 to 6,000 votes can be made up between the primary and the general, Paca said — most recently, in Justin Elicker’s 2013 campaign against Toni Harp. “And I think I could do the same,” he said.
Generational Torch Passed
On a night of relatively low voter turnout, Celentano Magnet School on Prospect Street was bustling with activity until the minute the polls closed at 8 p.m.
That was because Celentano is the polling place for Ward 19, one of only three wards wards in the city that saw a contested Democratic primary for alder on Tuesday night, pitting a lifelong New Havener with deep roots in local politics against a relative newcomer eager to make local government more transparent.
Kimberly Edwards, the daughter of the outgoing Ward 19 Alder Alfreda Edwards and a current a union steward and a customer service representative at Frontier Communications, defeated Sarah Ofosu, a Ghanaian immigrant who has lived in New Haven for four years and works for a local education non-profit, by a vote margin of 401 to 153.
As the sun set over Prospect Hill on Tuesday night, Edwards and Ofosu stood among supporters and tried to do some last minute voter outreach after weeks of knocking doors in the ward that traverses Newhallville, Prospect Hill, and East Rock. Ofosu had been at the polling location since 6 a.m. and Edwards had been there since 7 a.m., but they were both energized as voters continued to stream in as late as 8 p.m. on their way home from work.
“It’s been wonderful meeting people from all over the ward, and seeing people respond to my strong voice,” Edwards said. “I’m a union worker, and people know that I’m a strong advocate for regular people.”
One such voter, John Carmona, who has lived on Huntington Street for 25 years and works for Tower Laboratories in Clinton, said in a mix of Spanish and English that Edwards was the right alder for the neighborhood. “She is someone who cares about all people in New Haven,” he said. “She is good people.”
Surrounded by a range of political leaders who had come out to show their support for Edwards, ranging from Mayor Harp to East Rock Alder Anna Festa, Probate Judge candidate Clifton Graves, City Clerk Michael Smart, and her mom and current Newhallville/East Rock alder Alfeda, Edwards said that she did not expect any special treatment because of her family history.
“We’re not kings and queens, and I don’t expect to be next in line,” she said. “I never take for granted that people will know me. You still have to network to touch everyone.”
Ofosu stood a few dozen feet from Edwards’ coterie at a table filled with campaign lit and surrounded by a few supporters, including her parents and younger brother, who had driven up from Washington County, Maryland for the day.
“This is my home now,” Ofosu said. “As someone who is working here, living here, playing here, I think that I deserve a chance to participate in political life here too.”
Over 50 people moved into the Celentano auditorium as 8 p.m. approached to listen to the voter results. Mayoral hopeful Marcus Paca paced the floorboards nervously as his wife Mendi Blue looked on from the side of the room.
The moderator announced that 526 total votes had been cast at the polling location, and that Edwards had defeated Ofosu by over 220 votes, and that Harp had defeated Paca by almost 300. Edwards and Ofosu gave each other a hug as Edwards’ supporters cheered her on.
“I feel great that people have faith in me and want me to represent them,” Edwards said after the results had been announced. “And I’m very ready for the general election in November.” She said that, if elected alder, her number one priority would be encouraging local businesses to hire local workers.
Ofosu said that she was not yet sure if she wI’ll not run in the general election. “I’m exiting today without a title,” she said. “But it’s not a title that matters, it’s your actions.”
In a letter to supporters, Ofosu wrote in part, ““I ran for office because I love New Haven and because I want it to be a place where city government is accessible to all, where our elected officials are transparent about how our tax dollars are spent and invested and a place where all voices are included in the decision making process. In the following weeks and months, I will reflect on what went right, what went wrong, and most importantly I will remind myself of the reason why I decided to get into local politics.”
A Familiar Face In West Hills
A familiar face beat out two political newcomers in three-way race for the alder seat that represents both sides of West Rock.
West Rock/West Hills Alder Michelle Sepulveda, who was appointed by Mayor Toni Harp in August to finish out the term of Carlton Staggers and had served in the role in the past, won handily Tuesday against challengers Charlie Delgado and Tosha James-Goldson.
Sepulveda garnered 182 votes to Delgado’s 36 and James-Goldson’s 32. But it remains to be seen if she will face her primary opponents in the November general Election.
Delgado said prior to final ballots being cast Tuesday that he had yet to decide whether he would carry through with a general election fight. He spent much of election night still canvassing his Brookside neighborhood and listening to residents who were concerned about rent increases and crime.
“I think whatever happens, I will be grateful to go and work with other programs and people in the city to sharpen my tool set,” he said.
An attempt to reach James-Goldson was unsuccessful late Tuesday.
Sepulveda said she was excited about winning the election and she had a promise for her constituents.
“I promise that I will call all of my constituents back,” she said. “I know that sounds small but it seemed to be a really big thing to them when I was out there.”
A New Face In The Heights
Haywood, who in the past has helped other people run for office, had tears in her eyes after defeating Lee 275 votes to 171.
“I had a lot of people who helped me. I’m on dialysis. They supported me when I was weak. I’m so grateful. [Alder Gerald] Antunes is fantastic. He told me about the job. He was a kind of mentor. [Alder] Ken Reveiz too,” she said. She promised, if elected in November, to make a priority of bringing speed bumps to Bella Vista, Eastern Parkway, and Quinnipiac Avenue. She also spoke of helping the senior center on Atwater Street and the larger one at Bella Vista need to exchange and share information better, about programs and activities.
All the losing candidates have the option of running as unaffiliated candidates in the Nov. 7 general election because they have submitted petitions qualifying them for ballot positions.
Robert Lee, a former alder who has unsuccessfully tried to regain a seat on the board several times, said after the polls closed that this will be his last year running for office. He said he hadn’t decided yet whether to see this campaign through to the general election.
“The people made a statement. The people made a choice. You got to respect it,” Lee said.
Thank you to all the community volunteers who helped the Independent collect voting results at the polls!
posted by: GroveStreet on September 12, 2017 7:28pm
Horrible turnout overall, but how much money did Paca spend per vote?
posted by: Kevin McCarthy on September 12, 2017 7:37pm
posted by: bewildered on September 12, 2017 7:43pm
The best person for the job has won. Congratulations, Mayor Harp!
posted by: bewildered on September 12, 2017 7:54pm
Congratulations, Mayor Harp!
posted by: U.need.more.people on September 12, 2017 8:13pm
Awesome! I knew Harp was going to be victorious!
posted by: Noteworthy on September 12, 2017 8:14pm
Ignore the Headline Notes:
1. Only about 7400 people voted. Pathetic.
2. Paca should run in the general.
3. Results are no surprise. Hit repeat from every election where the incumbent is always the mindlessly endorsed candidate.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 12, 2017 8:37pm
Our people have to become registered voters, but we first have to get a better understand of politics. We go into politics in a gullible way, an emotional way. When politics is cold blooded and heartless, we must first learn the science of politics, and we should not take sides with either party. We should not sell ourselves to either party——MALCOLM X (from his lecture at Harvard Law School , 1964)
You see across this country is not the people who do not vote.The problem is Uneducated voters.These type of voters do not understand what it is voting.They vote based on intuition, rather than relying exclusively on their comprehension of the candidates’ policies. They will tell you I vote Republican because it is the tradition in our family,or I’m a democrat because my friends are voting democrats. A good democracy relies on an educated and engaged population.and the sad thing is that politicians know this very well and use it very well.
posted by: Latina on September 12, 2017 8:59pm
Awesome! Harp for New Haven! She is truly a better candidate!!
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 12, 2017 9:15pm
“I don’t vote. Two reasons. First of all it’s meaningless; this country was bought and sold a long time ago. The shit they shovel around every 4 years *pfff* doesn’t mean a F thing. Secondly, I believe if you vote, you have no right to complain. People like to twist that around – they say, ‘If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain’, but where’s the logic in that? If you vote and you elect dishonest, incompetent people into office who screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You caused the problem; you voted them in; you have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote, who in fact did not even leave the house on election day, am in no way responsible for what these people have done and have every right to complain about the mess you created that I had nothing to do with.” George Carlin
posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on September 12, 2017 9:29pm
I wish to congratulate Mayor Harp and her team on their victory.
posted by: GroveStreet on September 12, 2017 9:50pm
So Paca spent more than $20 per vote in a grievance campaign only to lose by 50 points. Next time just have a huge cookout on the Green. You will spend less and save the embarrassment of losing to the former boss who fired your family for insubordination.
posted by: BevHills730 on September 12, 2017 10:02pm
Congratulations to Harp and her team.
It is hard to imagine how Paca could have done much worse.
posted by: beyonddiscussion on September 12, 2017 10:58pm
14.5 percent of city Dems voted for Harp. A vote of confidence??
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 12, 2017 11:25pm
Keep voting them in.
The Politician Prayer.
The Politician is my shepherd; I shall not want,
He leadeth me beside the still factories,
He restoreth my doubt in Politics
He guideth me to the path of unemployment,
He anointeth my wages with taxes, Surely Poverty and hard living shall follow this administration.And I shall be living in a rented house forever.
5000 years ago, the Politicians said, Pack your camel, pick up your shovel, mount and I shall lead you to the promised land of gentrification.
Today, the Politicians will tax your shovel, sell your camel,screw you and tell you to Vote for me I will set you free.
posted by: Bill Saunders on September 13, 2017 12:29am
I think she spent a lot more….. she out fundraised Marcus 4 to 1…..... and that wasn’t ‘clean money’ donations… Harp doesn’t know about clean…...
posted by: Bill Saunders on September 13, 2017 1:35am
From what I know Paca had about 20k to spend, Harp 84k, (except she missed the finance filing deadline)
That comes out to Paca spending less than Harp per Vote, or close to the same…..
posted by: Dwightstreeter on September 13, 2017 7:20am
I didn’t vote because I can’t. Primaries are closed to large numbers of people who don’t identify with either of the so-called major parties, both of which continue to lose membership nationally so that 44% of Americans are unaffiliated or independent. In a one party town like New Haven, voters can only ratify the choice of a small group of insiders. Bernie said the system is rigged and it is. Incumbents have the money and the organization, whereas challengers like Paca start with little. We need to have many more debates between now and November so more detailed questions can be asked and answered, like how many has the city’s debt increased in the last 4 years. Why don’t we have a Civilian Review Board with subpoena power? Why doesn’t New Haven own its own power supply? Instead of debates with a few hundred people, why aren’t these events streamed live to our computers? It’s too easy for candidates to roll out slogans and avoid substance. Either we change the process or the disconnect with the populous will continue to grow.
posted by: GroveStreet on September 13, 2017 8:17am
Marcus had $40k, Bill. Try Google.
posted by: Razzie on September 13, 2017 8:38am
Whine and Cheese Notes:
1. More than 75% of the voting citizens are smarter than the perpetual critics gave them credit for.
2. Negative campaigning does not always “trump” the absence of substance.
3.It takes a pretty dumb person to always believe he/she is the smartest person in the room.
CONGRATULATIONS MAYOR HARP.
posted by: LivingInNewHaven on September 13, 2017 9:11am
The results just as they should have been. Wishing Mr Paca and his bride well. They should find another hobby.
posted by: informed on September 13, 2017 9:22am
To the Victor go the spoils. The spoils of discontent and satisfaction with mediocrity. What would this town look like without a true Democratic process? Who are these people railing about a basic pillar of our Democracy? Who is dismissive of the fundamental principle of the ballot and choice? Who are these people criticizing the courage to run and put your life under a microscope? Who are these people opposing an alternative vision and future? Who believes that a progressive town can grow without thought leadership, progressive ideas, active discussions and a vibrant political process? Do you ever think Amazon would choose a city in which ignorance prevails? Do you think students who attend Yale would desire to settle here? Wake up, educate yourselves and stop trying to tear people down and respect effort, courage, vision and our future young leaders. Ms Harp is 70 who is up next, you? Most of the message board trolls won’t have a clue about where to start. It very easy to be a keyboard warrior hiding behind fake names. Do better, be better, don’t be the same be better.
posted by: AJENT3 on September 13, 2017 9:35am
Unfortunately we are stuck with harp. I wish the so-called powers that be would vote based on the facts and not political favors. 2 yrs from now we will have the same if not worse issue from a poor leader. She will continue to be absent in the community(unless the press is there), and barely speak when she sees you. Why did I move back to New Haven.
posted by: vpaul on September 13, 2017 9:41am
Paca needs to read the writing on the wall. The low turnout demonstrates the lack of enthusiasm for HIM. Sometimes personal arrogance prevents rejected people from just going away! E.g., Hillary Clinton.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 13, 2017 10:10am
posted by: informed on September 13, 2017 10:22am
To the Victor go the spoils. The spoils of discontent and satisfaction with mediocrity. What would this town look like without a true Democratic process? Who are these people railing about a basic pillar of our Democracy? Who is dismissive of the fundamental principle of the ballot and choice? Who are these people criticizing the courage to run and put your life under a microscope? Who are these people opposing an alternative vision and future? Most of the message board trolls won’t have a clue about where to start. It very easy to be a keyboard warrior hiding behind fake names. Do better, be better, don’t be the same be better.
I know where to start.
And this is why I Belong to Fair vote.Get rid of the two-party stranglehold on our political system and more people will run.The two major parties maintain a collusive stranglehold on the election system. Third party candidates are purposefully disadvantaged.The two major parties two sides of the same coin.I ask you this question.Why are the The two major parties afraid of the this.
5.The best one. Proportional representation
posted by: GroveStreet on September 13, 2017 10:14am
Informed, why are YOU hiding behind a fake name. And by the way, ask around and you will find a lot of Yalies who have made New Haven their home. But then we have anonymous suburbanites like yourself who just scream at the clouds.
posted by: UnheardNerd on September 13, 2017 10:16am
My district alder ran unopposed, but I came out and voted anyway, though the other members of my household who were eligible to vote did not bother. My taxes haven’t gone up in 3 years, and that’s as good a reason as any to keep the current mayor. I also read about the debates here in the local papers to inform myself before stepping into the booth. I didn’t vote for her the first time she ran, but I did this time in the primary, and will probably do so again in November, unless things drastically change between now and then. I’m just glad that we still have the right to vote, and that the free press still exists to inform on our candidates. I am also glad that we got notices in the mail reminding us of the polling location and date. Thank you to all who work to ensure that we still have free and open elections.
posted by: Noteworthy on September 13, 2017 11:07am
The vast majority voted by not voting at all. That’s a noteworthy and cringeworthy result.
posted by: JCFremont on September 13, 2017 11:08am
Could the Board of Elections just ask Ms. Harp what year she would like to retire so the city could not waste our time and money with these silly elections until that time. I guess the restaurant that gets to hold the victory party likes it, maybe the Board of Alders could pass a law that the party must rotate.
posted by: Babz Rawls Ivy on September 13, 2017 11:27am
High-Five Paul for engaging those student volunteers to keep tabs on the vote count! That’s real roll-up-your-sleeves experience! My oldest daughter graduated from Sound School and my youngest son attends New Haven Academy. Love seeing these young people getting involved in the political process!
posted by: Bill Saunders on September 13, 2017 1:28pm
The 84K was from Harp’s previous Reporting Period… I understand there was more fundraising in the latest reporting period, but TEAM HARP opted to pay the small ‘fine’, rather than disclose to the public the truth behind the ‘finances’....
posted by: RobotShlomo on September 13, 2017 2:28pm
If Paca doesn’t run in the general and Harp is unopposed, then I’m writing in “None of the above” again.
posted by: Kevin McCarthy on September 13, 2017 8:05pm
Dwightstreeter, you ask (among other things) why New Haven does not have a civilian review board with subpoena powers or its own power supply (presumably a municipal electric utility). I’m fine with either proposal. But both would require a change in state law, which specifies who has subpoena power and makes it virtually impossible to create new municipal electric utilities. The legislature (Democrats as well Republicans) has expressed little to no interest in passing the necessary legislation.
posted by: Dwightstreeter on September 14, 2017 12:11pm
@Kevin McCarthy: I do know that the last CRB didn’t have subpoena power and all the new proposals presented by community groups addressed that issue as critical to investigations. The Board of Alders proposed a CRB that duplicated the previous one. The Mayor endorsed that proposal. The Mayor then said on radio that she felt the Board of Police Commissioners could handle the role of a CRB. Nothing has been passed in the 3 years since the Charter Revision Commission recommended a CRB with subpoena power. The Board of Alders President has subpoena power. The Board of Police Commissioners has subpoena power. Subpoena power for a NH CRB can be requested from the State Legislature. The Mayor fails to mention the lack of a CRB in her campaign and yet NH has a “strong mayor” form of government. Just as DeStefano blocked the Board of Alders years ago from passing a strong CRB and use executive fiat instead, Harp could institute whatever she wanted or use her clout to get the Alders to pass an effective CRB. It hasn’t happened. Why? All mayors fear their police, but the NHPD mostly lives out of town and doesn’t vote here. Most people with a complaint don’t even bother to file one with Internal Affairs because the outcomes exonerate the police. Is the problem with the wording of the General Orders that give officers discretion? Is it with the union contract that protects the officers at the expense of the public? Is it with the lack of character in those within the IA? Is it a lack of leadership at the top? It is dereliction of duty not to carry out the mandate of the Charter Revision Commission and the people of New Haven do not trust any level of local government to protect them at this point.
posted by: vpaul on September 14, 2017 5:45pm
Re: CRB - All the proposed Board needs is standing to go into Superior Court and request an order for needed materials to be produced, if police are not cooperative.
This is no great burden, since it would have to do so ANYWAY if its subpoena were ignored!
All this nit-picking will serve only to kill it.
posted by: vpaul on September 14, 2017 5:51pm
Robot - Then your vote won’t count, because it is not given to a PRE-REGISTERED write-in candidate. Better that you get a write-in candidate to register as such, and THEN vote for him/her.
Too much armchair generalship here!
posted by: Bill Saunders on September 14, 2017 9:50pm
Maybe you just inspired Robot to register as a write-in AND vote for himself….
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 15, 2017 8:19am
posted by: vpaul on September 14, 2017 6:51pm
Robot - Then your vote won’t count, because it is not given to a PRE-REGISTERED write-in candidate. Better that you get a write-in candidate to register as such, and THEN vote for him/her.
Too much armchair generalship here!
Your vote counts, so long as you don’t live in a state dominated by the other party.The system works so we have only 2 choices: bad and worse.