Despite—or perhaps with the help of—a last-minute blast of negative campaign mailings by his opponent, State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield cruised to an election victory Tuesday, winning the open 10th District state Senate seat with 76 percent of the vote.
Holder-Winfield (pictured), a Democrat, defeated Republican Steven Mullins to win the seat, which covers the west side of New Haven and part of West Haven. The post was vacated recently by Toni Harp when she became mayor of New Haven, thereby triggering Tuesday’s special election.
Unofficial returns from all polling places, collected at the Holder-Winfield campaign gathering at the Olive Garden, showed him with 3,236 votes to Mullins’ 1,045. Around 200 absentee ballots also remained to be counted. (The Independent did not activate its polling-station reporting operation for this election.)
Holder-Winfield withstood an 11th-hour barrage of mailings, TV ads, and robocalls tying him to “sexual predators” and a 4-year-old quashed bill, which he had nothing to do with, that would have created a statewide property tax.
“I hope to be a good senator for you. And if I’m not, I hope you let me know, because that’s how I maintain the type of advocacy I’ve done,” Holder-Winfield said in a speech thanking supporters at the Olive Garden. He was flanked by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and by his wife Natalie Holder-Winfield as he spoke.
Holder-Winfield called the results a repudiation of “scare tactics” and negative campaigning.
“Truth honesty and integrity matter,” Holder-Winfield said.
Mullins’ campaign fell particularly flat in New Haven’s black community despite a pitch tailored directly to African-American churchgoers. Unofficial machine totals showed Mullins receiving just 4 votes at a King-Robinson School in Newhallville, for instance, to Holder-Winfield’s 119 (representing 96.75 percent); and just 22 votes at Lincoln-Bassett School in the same neighborhood, compared to Holder-Winfield’s 243 (which translated to 91.7 percent). The story was the same in Dixwell: Holder-Winfield clobbered Mullins 128-11 (getting 92 percent), according to the machine totals at Wexler-Grant School. Mullins got a grand total of 1 vote out of 27 at West Rock’s Clarence Rogers School polling station. He received 3 votes in West River. Overall in New Haven, Holder-Winfield crushed Mullins by 84 to 16 percent. New Haven comprises most of the 10th Senate District.
Mullins did prevail in two of the five polling stations in West Haven and beat Holder-Winfield overall in West Haven by 54-46 percent, according to the unofficial returns. In New Haven, Mullins fared the best in Westville’s Ward 25, the only polling place where he cracked 100 votes.
Running in a heavily Democratic district, Republican Mullins used a late-stage barrage of mailings to try to win support. He circulated two flyers over the weekend, each with dubious assertions about Holder-Winfield. One claims that Holder-Winfield wanted to implement a statewide property tax, which would take an additional $1,700 from every homeowner. The other (pictured) claimed that a bill Holder-Winfield supported would allow transgender rapists to use women’s bathrooms to attack young girls. Both had tenuous relationships to the truth. Click here to read a full story about the leaflets.
Holder-Winfield said Tuesday night that while the tax attack may have won Mullins some votes, particularly in Westville, it also motivated some people to come out and vote for him rather than stay home, based on conversations he had with voters.
Mullins told his supporters in West Haven after the polls closed that he has “no regrets” about the campaign. He continued to attack the Democrats on taxes.
A number of the voters interviewed by the Independent at the polls Tuesday said Mullins’ flyer blitz was a turn-off, not a winning pitch.
“I thought that was negative,” James (who declined to give his last name) said of the transgender mailing, after casting a vote for Holder-Winfield at Mauro-Sheridan school in Westville. “It really had nothing to do with the election.”
“I got a mailing from [Mullins] in which he claimed the state would be instituting a property tax,” said Catherine Marshall (pictured), an administrative assistant at Yale who said she voted for Holder-Winfield. She said she looked into his claims and found that the state property tax idea never went anywhere, and if it had, it would have meant lower municipal taxes for New Haven. “Did Mullins say that? Of course he didn’t, because he’s a Republican.”
At Mitchell Library in Westville, Nicola Edwards said she didn’t care for Mullins’ negative mailings. “I don’t do slander,” she said. Edwards, who is 44 and works with developmentally disabled adults, said she’s teaching her teenage son to vote against the candidate who goes negative. “I don’t want to be bothered with it.” She said she voted for Holder-Winfield.
While Mullins seemed to have made a negative impression in Westville, he didn’t appear to have found much attention at all in Newhallville.
At the Lincoln-Bassett school, voters said they didn’t receive any mailings. Rhonda Nelson said she did see a lot of Facebook ads, all for Holder-Winfield. “He’s on every Facebook ad there is,” she said. She said she voted for Holder-Winfield. “I don’t even know what the Republican stands for.”
Mark Barros (pictured with his 4-year-old niece Savannah), a 52-year-old truck driver, said he voted for Holder-Winfield. “He doesn’t lie,” Barros said. “And he lives in this community. That means a lot, too.”
Mullins, who lives in West Haven, did find at least one vote in Newhallville, perhaps by accident.
“I don’t think anybody totally grabbed my attention,” said Barros’ wife, who declined to give her name. After looking both ways, she whispered that she had voted for the Republican, Mullins.
“You voted for Mullins?” Barros said.
“You told me to!” his wife replied. Barros said he had told her the opposite.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with either team,” the woman said. “Change is always decent.”
For African-Americans, voting Democratic has become an automatic reflex, she said. “We’ve been taught that black people vote Democratic for the poor.” African-American voters should consider their options more carefully, she said.
Holder-Winfield is currently the state representative from New Haven’s 94th General Assembly District. His election to the state Senate paves the way for a special election for the state representative seat. Former Newhallville Alderman Charles Blango, a Democrat, has already announced that he will seek the seat. Rey Harp also has expressed interest. Read about that here. Harp is director of Renaissance Management, a real-estate company founded by his late brother Wendell (the husband of current Mayor Toni Harp).
Following were the vote totals at the New Haven polls, with Holder-Winfield’s totals listed first; another 180 or so absentee ballots were being counted at 200 Orange St. Tuesday night:
• Troup School (Dwight neighborhood): 199-9
• Career High School (the Hill): 51-7
• Truman School (the Hill): 80-14
• Howard Avenue Firehouse (the Hill): 74-16
• New Horizons School (Hill/City Piont): 73-34
• Celentano School (Prospect HIll/Newhallville): 75-9
• Lincoln-Bassett School (Newhallville): 243-22
• King-Robinson School (Newhallville): 119-4
• Wexler-Grant School (Dixwell): 128-11
• Berger Apartments (West River): 151-3
• Ellsworth Avenue Firehouse (Edgewood) 147-26
• Edgewood School (Westville Flats) 515-135
• Mauro-Sheridan School (Upper Westville): 344-92
• Mitchell Library (Westville/West Hills, Beverly Hills): 172-33
• Hillhouse High School (Beaver Hills): 223-53
• Beecher School (Beaver Hills): 157-23
• Clarence Rogers Schools (West Rock): 26-1
• West Hills Micro Society School (West Hills): 85-20
Following are the machine totals from the five West Haven precincts, again with Holder-Winfield’s totals listed first:
• District 1: 98-48
• District 4: 45-90
• District 5: 127-89
• District 6: 83-215
• District 7: 89-111
(The other districts fall in a different state Senate district.)
Connecticut Working Families Party Executive Director Lindsay Farrell issued the following statement Tuesday night:
“Working families have reason to be thrilled that Gary Holder-Winfield will be moving to the Senate. He understands what families across
our state are going through, and now he’ll be in an even stronger position to make sure their interests are represented. In the General Assembly, Holder-Winfield has been a champion for economic justice issues. He has been a leader on criminal justice reform, good government issues, and was a strong ally in passing Connecticut’s historic paid sick days legislation.”
An earlier version of this story follows:
Found! A Voter Who Believed Mullins
By Paul Bass & Allan Appel
Mary Coughlin filled in the Republican oval in her ballot at the Westville polls Tuesday—in order to stop a new tax she’d just heard about.
Coughlin (pictured) said she voted for Republican Steven Mullins against Democrat Gary Holder-Winfield in a special election for the 10th District state Senate seat vacated by Mayor Toni Harp.
“We can’t afford another tax,” Coughlin explained as she left the Ward 25 polling station at Edgewood School.
Coughlin said she had just learned about this tax hike. Mullins blanketed Westville this past weekend with flyers warning people that electing Democrat Holder-Winfield would lead to a new statewide property tax that would cost each person $1,700. The flyers featured photos of old white people distraught about losing their homes. Separate flyers sent to other neighborhoods, featuring pictures of young African-American girls, warned that Hodler-Winfield wants sexual predators to rape them in public bathrooms. Click here to read a full story about those two claims. Mullins repeated them in robocalls to voters’ homes as well as in TV ads.
Mullins was hoping the 11th-hour barrage against Holder-Winfield would help him overcome the district’s heavy Democratic registration advantage.
Mullins found a creative way to make the $1,700 new-tax charge and pin it on Holder-Winfield: Four years ago a different politician (who supports Holder-Winfield) put in a bill for a statewide property tax that would return more money to lower-income communities like New Haven. It died in committee; no one voted on it, and it hasn’t resurfaced. Then Mullins cited a University of Connecticut article that calculated how much a far bigger statewide tax would theoretically cost an average homeowner (someone living in far wealthier communities than the 10th District). When even that didn’t add up to $1,700, Mullins “rounded up.”
Coughlin was convinced she needed to worry.
“My husband has cancer. I’ve been laid off,” she said.
She was asked if she believes that a new tax will actually take effect if Holder-Winfield wins the election.
“From what I understand, that’s what they’d be doing,” she responded. “And it would go to the state, not the city. And our streets aren’t plowed!”
Two Holder-Winfield voters at Edgewood, Jane and Howard McGinn (pictured), said they hadn’t heard much from Mullins. McGinn said she knows Holder-Winfield from her job at Southern Connecticut State University, and has applauded his success as a state representative in helping to end the state’s death penalty and pass school-reform legislation. “I like what he stands for,” she said. Her husband, New Haven’s retired city librarian, agreed.
Church Visit Backfired
Voting was light, in some places downright anemic, at spots across the city. Two sisters who showed up at the Ward 19 Prospect Hill polling place, Celentano School, Lauren and Brittany King (pictured), said that personal campaign visits by both candidates clinched their votes—in favor of Holder-Winfield.
They hadn’t originally been sure whom to vote for, they said.
Holder-Winfield “came to our residence on Division Street near Science Park, a heavily riddled crime area,“said Brittany, a pre-school teacher. She said the outreach and his concern for the “little people” inclined her towards Holder-Winfield, about whom she had not heard a lot. The sisters found him “genuine.”
“Mullins said he was going to stay for church, and he left” without staying for the service, Lauren said. “In life, your word is all you have. It might seem trivial, to leave, but it speaks to the larger part of your character.” That tipped the scales for a Holder-Winfield vote, she said.
The King sisters were the ninth and 10th voters out of a total of only 12 tallied at the polling place between 6 a.m. and about 9:15 a.m. The polls remain open until 8 p.m.
Meanwhile, Holder-Winfield channeled this classic photo of Adlai Stevenson.
Previous coverage of this race:
• Mullins Unleashes “Sexual Predator” Charge
• Mullins Gets Churched
• Mullins Asks State To “Seize” New Haven Election
• On The Trail, The Political Becomes Personal
• Labor Backs Holder-Winfield
• Candidate Cries Foul At Clerk’s Office
• Holder-Winfield Files For Public Dough
• Holder-Winfield Wins Party Endorsement
• Goldson Drops Out
• Candidates Vow To Run On Clean Money
• Holder-Winfield Eyes Harp’s Senate Seat