New Haven’s longest-serving state representative is facing a likely challenge from a fellow Democrat who claims he can help bring home more bacon from Hartford.
Darryl Brackeen, Jr., a three-term city alder from Upper Westville, told the Independent he’s “strongly considering” a primary challenge against fellow Democrat Patricia Dillon, a 17-term state representative from the 92nd General Assembly District. He’s expected to file his paperwork to run as soon as in coming days, according to people familiar with his plans.
In a district that encompasses both the Westville and West River neighborhoods, both are positioning themselves as the candidate who’s best able to reel in state dollars that could generate much-needed economic opportunity in New Haven.
Brackeen, 29, often seen sporting a bow tie, said he’s been hearing discontent from his Upper Westville constituents about the state’s gridlock. He said he possesses the skill set to advocate for New Haven up in Hartford.
“With the economy of the state as it stands today, what has the representative done to get us out of the hole that we’re in? With 32 years to do it?” Brackeen asked. “I’m strongly considering a primary in order to ensure that the issues of the 92nd District are raised and advocated for in a manner in which we can actually see deliverables and not just talking points.”
Mayor Toni Harp, who worked with Dillon in the legislature for two decades and lives in Brackeen’s ward, said that she needs more information before choosing whom to endorse. “I know how effective [Dillon] is, so I just want to know why some folks think we need a change,” Harp said.
“It’s A Small Town”
Dillon, once the director of a battered women’s shelter, defeated a popular Republican incumbent in 1984 to first win her seat in Connecticut’s House of Representatives, despite a red wave that year. Four years behind Sen. Martin Looney’s arrival in Hartford (who was then a state rep), she’s still New Haven’s senior lawmaker in the lower chamber. Dillon serves as the assistant majority whip, though she said she doesn’t “put much stock in titles.” She also sits on the Appropriations, Environment and Judiciary Committees, which she said come with “very heavy workloads.”
“It’s a surprise coming from someone I worked with very closely,” she said. “Having a challenger is, you know, part of the process. The reasons for it would matter, and it will certainly be disruptive of relationships. It’s a small town.”
She argued that now’s not the right time for Brackeen to make a bid, as the New Haven delegation needs to present a unified front to win limited funds for the city in what’s proven to be a tough budget cycle.
“Its difficult for any incumbent in a year like this because of what’s going on at the Capitol,” Dillon said, citing a tied State Senate and closely-divided state House as well as fiscal constraints being impediments to getting legislation passed. “I think that unity is important. New Haven has many voices, and we squander our authority at the Capitol if we don’t come up with a common agenda.”
Brackeen disagreed, saying a competitive race will produce “a stronger democracy and a stronger party to address the issues of her district.” If he proceeds with plans for the primary, he promised to make adjustments for the “21st-century realities that require a reassessment of progressive ideas.”
Brackeen, a Hillhouse High grad who currently works as outreach director for the advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence, called himself “a strong team player” who has developed a “reputation as a fierce advocate” for New Haven’s middle-class families during his four years on the Board of Alders. He said he mobilized his constituents against raising property taxes, steered the installation of speed bumps and traffic-calming measures throughout his ward (with bond funding that Dillon helped secure), and advocated for full funding of the state’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) in Hartford.
Dillon objected to the narrative that Brackeen’s entrance to the race would offer a choice between a veteran’s experience and a newcomer’s energy.
“I don’t expect voters to defer to experience, but I don’t know that turning on people because they’re incumbents makes sense either. You do it on the facts of the case,” she said. “I’m a known quantity; I know what I’m doing.”
She added that Brackeen isn’t necessarily a newcomer to politics. “I don’t know if he’s fresh. He’s been around quite a bit,” she said. “Fresh to the Capitol? Well, I suppose, but not to public life.”
Dillon said she worried about running for reelection as an older woman, citing attacks on Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, who she regularly saw drawn as wrinkled “hags” in cartoons. “I was just astonished over the venom against Hillary Clinton,” she said. “Maybe I should have anticipated it, but I’m bracing for it.”
She described herself as “younger than Trump, younger than Hillary and older than Darryl.” (She’s 69.)
Brackeen said he won’t be running to diminish women’s leadership in politics.
“It’s just kind of far-fetched,” he said. “This is not about labels, this is about results.” He said that he’d been shaped by powerful women throughout his life. “I grew up in a single-parent home with a mother who was a strong, intelligent banker. [I] married a brilliant, wonderful woman who’s a social worker and fathered two daughters who I believe could reach the highest pinnacle and break the glass ceiling, as Pat Dillon has done,” he said. “I honor her for her work and what she’s done for women, there’s no question.”
Brackeen said he hasn’t submitted any campaign filings yet; Dillon said she signed her reelection papers on Tuesday.
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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 10, 2018 6:31pm
Brackeen, a Hillhouse High grad who currently works as outreach director for the advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence,
I smell Charter School Vampires behind this move.
posted by: Gary Stewart on January 10, 2018 6:34pm
My support for one or the other candidate will be based on which , if either, one shows the most independence from the local political machine. We have a situation where the mayor pays people to be her friend, the BOA plays along, the joke of a Democratic Town Committee votes 59-1 to endorse the mayor , whose campaign engaged in criminal intimidation and the Yale HERE unions control it all. Any politician running in this city should be prepared to take a stand on the mayor’s behavior , addressing the Board of Ed. circus , she being the ringmaster , for starters. Pat has not yet had anything to say , I hope Darryl will.
posted by: LoveNH on January 10, 2018 7:55pm
If either of these candidates comes out strongly in favor of New Haven jobs by publicly supporting its biggest employers, they will have my vote.
posted by: AverageTaxpayer on January 10, 2018 9:36pm
The political machine these days seems to be the black establishment culling out anyone who doesn’t look like them.
Whatever happened to diversity?
In this case to toss away Pat Dillon’s seniority, in favor of a rookie? That makes no sense.
Let’s see who lines up behind whom…
posted by: brooky42 on January 10, 2018 9:39pm
From what I’ve seen, Mr. Brackeen has a passion for the issues that affect the city and the energy to boast. More than anything, we will need results.
posted by: TimeforChangeInNewHaven on January 10, 2018 9:51pm
It’s about time we taxpayers take a close look at who is holding political office to make the changes needed for the future generation. They are upkeeping old practices and Not thinking of the people they impact ....
Dillion move on - new blood is never bad so don’t make this about women
Walker move on - you move solely by personal agenda
Harp can move on too- you dont hear and consider everyone especially based on the recent sup decisions
posted by: Christopher on January 10, 2018 10:11pm
I’m very excited to see Alder Brackeen considering a bid. I have a lot of respect for Rep. Dillon’s career, but I think Mr. Brackeen brings exciting new ideas to state politics, a successful track record on the Board of Alders, and a demonstrated commitment to the New Haven community. To me, that indicates his ability to accomplish great things in Hartford that will have a big impact on his constituents.
posted by: jacobnh on January 10, 2018 10:29pm
Brackeen’s focus on the community is sorely needed. New Haven can use his energy and dedication.
posted by: Noteworthy on January 11, 2018 7:16am
Truth in Politics Notes:
1. Daryl Brackeen needs to be very specific about what he would do differently in his broad mission of “reassessment of progressive ideas.” I don’t even know what that gobblygook means.
2. The state’s finances are a mess. They’ve been a mess for a long time. Chronic deficits, history making tax increases, monster debt and powerful state employee unions that feather their beds at the expense of taxpayers.
3. The City of New Haven is a mirror of the state. It’s short and long term finances are a mess. Darryl repeatedly voted for this.
4. Job growth in New Haven - is anemic outside of Eds and Meds. And the City of New Haven - who despite its budget problems has not reduced payroll but has increased it. Darryl voted for that.
5. The mayor’s office staff has nearly doubled and she has a body guard/chauffeur to squire her around and protect from all of us. Darryl voted for that.
6. The city is imposing a $1 million tax increase according to the BOA president. Darryl led a taxpayer revolt against higher property taxes? Parking fines, meter costs and other fees at the parks, golf and renting Lighthouse Park all went up. Meanwhile, the soccer fields in West River remain locked up, the Walker Ice Rink was allowed to decay in front of our eyes - Darryl voted for all that.
7. More than $6 billion in payroll left the state in 2015-2016. $3 billion moved in - the net deficit costs CT more than $100 million in payroll tax alone. Companies are leaving. Jobs haven’t recovered from a decade ago. We have one of the worst reputations for business climate and taxes and despite spending copious amounts on education, we have poor results in New Haven and the state.
Pat Dillon - and Dems, who until this year, refused to negotiate with the GOP on hardly anything, own a big chunk of this mess. But how will Darryl be any different? Will he suddenly be more fiscally responsible? Turn conservative? Or is this a smoke blind to feather his own nest?
posted by: ilovenewhaven on January 11, 2018 7:20am
Having had Brackeen as my alder, I can speak from experience. His record and actions have exhibited an impressive level of energy, focus, and commitment to both issues and constituent services. He seems to be a born leader, independent thinker, and a great team player.
posted by: Razzie on January 11, 2018 10:30am
Wow ... Is this a redux of the Marcus Paca vs. Liz McCormack 2009 aldermanic battle? Paca beat the veteran Edgewood legislator touting youth versus experience, and was aided by the changing demographics of Ward 24. It wasn’t a pretty sight; but nowadays most serious races in New Haven never are.
I’ve had the pleasure to work with both these legislators, both of whom I admire and respect. To the extent that Pat can be blamed for the State’s fiscal mess, Darryl will be held accountable for the City’s problems. So it’s a wash on that level. Pat has a solid record of constituent service impacting Westville and the broader City interests and she has survived several challenges over the recent years that were spurred by her political rivals. She knows what she is doing in Hartford, and is a tough tireless campaigner in New Haven. On the other hand, Darryl is smart, aggressive and destined for higher office. It will be a tough race.
I am encouraged by Darryl’s willingness to engage in this election fight. Competition is a good thing. But he will need to address his obvious ties to the for-profit charter school movement. I am looking forward to hearing more from both candidates.
posted by: motorcycle78 on January 11, 2018 10:30am
Having had the pleasure to meet Mr. Brackeen, I can say he is a standup fellow and would make a fine state rep., especially now with the current political scene. He is honest, dedicated to his work, and will fight for our city. He has my vote if he does run.
posted by: jimwest on January 11, 2018 10:59am
How ironic is this? Maybe this is a great example of one biting the hand that fed him.
I had the privilege of challenging Mrs. Dillon in 2014. This challenge enabled Mrs. Dillon to take advantage of the Citizens Election Fund and her campaign received about $28,000 for an election where her party had more than a 20 to 1 registration advantage. From these funds Mrs. Dillon’s campaign made repeated payments of $500 to Alder Brackeen for his work as a “consultant.” What a candidate needed a consultant for when she had such an overwhelming advantage I could never figure out. I never sought to utilize the Citizens Election Fund. On election day, 2014, as I was greeting voters at Edgewood School, I had the chance to meet with Mrs. Dillon. I asked her about this expenditure and Mrs. Dillon’s reply was “he recently got married.” What did Mrs. Dillon do to cause Alder Brackeen to consider this challenge after he apparently supported her so strongly in 2014? Perhaps this was just Mrs. Dillon trying to put off a potential challenge.
This is a perfect example of machine politics at work.
Alder Brackeen is the same Alder that had a great hand in redrawing the aldermanic districts after the 2010 census to accommodate his move from the heart of the 26th ward to what had been a long time section of another ward. I do not believe that Alder Brackeen represents Mayor Harp, as mentioned in your article, any longer as a result.
posted by: SparkJames on January 11, 2018 12:49pm
It’s time for that entire “class” of local politicians to step aside. They know who they are. Best of luck, Darryl!
posted by: Seth Poole on January 11, 2018 2:38pm
Great news! Pat is a skilled political strategist, and Darryl knows this because he was once her campaign manager. That was long ago.
This is great to see a logical race setting up! Good luck
posted by: Andrew1397 on January 11, 2018 3:22pm
@jimwest didn’t the redistricting occur before Alder Brackeen’s time? Also a lot has happened in the past few years. Many people and companies have left our state causing massive shifts in our economy which has made policies and ideas that once made sense no longer work. I think maybe we should try something new.
posted by: whalley4727 on January 11, 2018 5:29pm
I’ve always respected Pat Dillon. In fact, wouldn’t be opposed to her running for state office like the newly-open Treasurer’s seat. God knows we need representation from New Haven in the statewide electeds.
But Darryl is a bright spot in New Haven. He is smart and he walks his talk. It is time for him to move up.
posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on January 11, 2018 9:40pm
My good friend Razzie,
No one’s interested in your overall critique of the candidates. So what you know them well, if you’re not going to let the public know who you’re supporting, then do us all a favor, shut up.
Here’s the deal, I’ve known Rep. Dillon for quite some time. I know of Alderman Brackeen. And what I know of him, I’m far from impressed. He’ll show up at a rally, and you’ll never know what side of the argument he’s on or against. That’s not leadership, that’s pretentiousness.
Pat on the other hand, has proven herself to be a true warrior for New Haven’s interest for years. You’ll always know where she stands on the issues.
Unlike my good friend Razzie who prefers to adopt the Brackeen mantra by taking no side, I’m with Pat.
posted by: Razzie on January 12, 2018 8:28am
My friend Brian — I didn’t get the memo that Paul hired you as the Czar of NHI comments policy. I would have phoned in my congrats to you.
So, am I to understand that one of your first edicts is to mandate that a pick must be made between opposing candidates. If no pick, then “Shut up!” If you have that authority, you can just zap my comments and move on. But I suspect you don’t. And your opinion is no more weighty than that of anyone else. So thanks for your comment. I believe this race and these two candidates deserve more than a knee-jerk reaction from afar.
posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on January 12, 2018 12:11pm
Now, now Razzie,
My lovely mother always told me that the truth hurts. Knowing you as well as I do, I didn’t think that you’d be hospitalized by my words. Lol
What’s your room number at Yale NHH?
I’m far from being a czar, but I thank you for lionizing me in such fashion. The NHI couldn’t afford my services nor would they want it.
Stop trying to have it both ways like typical politicians. Show some character and support one or the other !!
posted by: Razzie on January 12, 2018 1:20pm
I realize your contrarian tendencies want me to take a pick so you can oppose [Point : Counterpoint]. But I honestly haven’t reached that point yet on this one. You like Pat. I like Pat too. But there is still much to consider before I weigh in on either side. When I do have a pick ... you will be the first to know.
posted by: flash_demo on January 12, 2018 2:36pm
I agree with Average Taxpayer calling out the elephant in the room. Where is the diversity in this town? Further, the black establishment sets up cliques within its own ranks, requiring that you be a certain type of black, ordained by the politicos and pastors. It’s rather embarrassing.
posted by: flash_demo on January 12, 2018 2:38pm
THREEFIFTHS’ Charter School Vampires. I am prettY sure you must have been abducted by aliens as you read conspiracy into EVERYTHING!
I’m with you Jenkins. It should not be so hard to pick a side and it isn’t. When Pat Dillon is ready to retire she will let us know. In the meantime she still does the job as well as ever and I never hear complaints from the voters but I do sometimes hear complaints from politicians who have supported her ambitious opponents in the past. That’s normal and counts for little. I am looking forward to walking a few miles door to door for Pat this summer if need be. She does not usually need the help to win big, but we will all do it anyway.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 12, 2018 6:41pm
posted by: flash_demo on January 12, 2018 2:38pm
THREEFIFTHS’ Charter School Vampires. I am prettY sure you must have been abducted by aliens as you read conspiracy into EVERYTHING!
Sorry no conspiracy.He work at one time for CONNCAN
Darryl Brackeen Jr CT Managing Director of Outreach at Educators for Excellence Greater New York City AreaPublic Policy Current Educators for Excellence, City of New Haven, DJBJ Motivational Media Previous Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), Lighthouse- Bridgeport Youth Club, Lincoln Bassett School Education Fairfield University Websites Company Website
Connecticut Through Educators for Excellence, educators are working across the state to provide a more elevated teaching profession and improved student outcomes.
Darryl Brackeen Managing Director of OutreachE4E donors of $500 or more supporting our organization in FY16 and our organizational growth: The Achelis Foundation
Like I Said.I smell Charter School Vampires behind this move.
posted by: 1644 on January 13, 2018 10:49am
I find it hard to believe that a rookie would be a more effective advocate for New Haven than a respected veteran like Dillon. Yes, she is old, but has her age affected her work? Has she been absent from key meetings? Missed key votes? Not participated in vital discussions? Has she lost touch with her district by failing to attend community meetings, respond to constituents, etc.? Has she, like Lemar, painted herself into a corner where even her own leadership and caucus stopped listening to her? Presumably, Bracken will show his energy by going to door to door, as Winter did. Will Dillon show she’s “not dead, yet” by doing the same?