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by Allan Appel | Sep 23, 2013 7:29 am
Posted to: East Rock
Toni Harp bought a handcarved spoon and some jewelry. Justin Elicker bought a lemon ice; he supplemented it with a coffee-oreo gelato.
Kermit Carolina bought a cranberry muffin, Rosa DeLauro a stainless-steel tattooed bracelet.
Shopping the local economy while slow-strolling and chatting to voters as their kids climbed a rock wall or gobbled a slice was the mellow form the mayoral campaign took as it unfolded Saturday afternoon at the fourth annual Orange Street Festival.
Both mayoral campaigns—Democrat Harp’s and independent Elicker’s—set up tables just up from Cottage Street, and at the beginning of a four-block long gauntlet aromatic with pizza, popcorn, and sparkling with vendors’ clothing, jewelry, and other wares.
One of the organizers of the festival, Alyson Heimer, said the candidates’ tables were deliberately put cheek by jowl so visitors to the festival could talk easily to both campaigns and weigh views.
Both campaigns were also asked not to register voters at their tables. Fulfilling that key civic chore was Aaron Goode, who had plunked his table affiliated with the New Haven Votes Coalition in the center of the street nearby. By late afternoon he said he had registered about 15 people.
Mellow as it was, the throngs of people proved irresistible to the candidates.
They and their supporters promenaded, the Harp folks sedately but also bearing identifying signs, while Elicker, perhaps a more quickly recognized figure in East Rock, moved past the vendors and the not-for-profit groups without campaign paraphernalia.
Both candidates said no neighborhood “belongs” to any candidate. As Elicker put it, “The whole city is everyone’s territory.”
Harp, who had spent the morning with a crowd of thousands in the East Shore at the 21st annual chili cook-off sponsored by the Community Action Agency, said she just wanted to enjoy herself and do a little shopping. She bought from Reinaldo Cruz a spoon he carved from a cedar tree felled on Ridge Road during the hurricane. “I’m good for the creative and innovative economy,” Harp said.
During the transaction, which she paid for by check, Cruz asked her why she is running for mayor. Harp gave a brief biography of how she got started on the Board of Aldermen and sees lots of “unfinished business” to tackle.
“Can you make [political] change?” asked Cruz. Originally from Puerto Rico, Cruz has been in business, with his partner interior designer Allie Bruch for four years.
“The mayor has much more of an ability to make change,” replied Harp.
When she asked if she could pay for the spoon by check, Bruch responded, “I think you’re a trustworthy check writer.”
Elicker, who had spent the only cash in his wallet on a first lemon ice from P&M’s gelato stand, borrowed a few dollars from a campaign aide and got in line behind Eleanor Law, who is 6 1/2 years old. Both candidate and child eyed the choices, of which there were many.
She chose the tiramisu. Elicker seemed for an instant to sink deep into thought about the merits of the coffee-Oreo versus the orange-Fanta. He eventually went with the former.
Pleasures aside, the campaign was impossible to miss.
Carolina, who since running in the Democratic mayoral primary has thrown his support to Elicker, looked relaxed in a black T-shirt, After he bought his cranberry-raisin-apple muffin, he joined Elicker strolling without signs or campaign lit. The duo promenaded up to the rock wall climb at the northern end of the festival proceedings and back down.
On the way, Carolina greeted and chatted with people, some of whom had studied at James Hillhouse High School, where he is principal, or taught there. He introduced his interlocutors to Elicker.
Young African-Americans had been a core component of the more than 1,000 votes Carolina received; Elicker has acknowledged he needs to broaden his base to include more black voters in the general election campaign.
Harp too had her former competition now giving her an assist at the fair, in the former of former mayoral candidate Nemerson.
Matt Nemerson (pictured), who lives in East Rock and has become of Harp’s campaign co-chairs, was also introducing folks he encountered to his candidate.
One was a Yale architect of Nemerson’s acquaintance.
Harp took a few more steps and received the greeting of Will Kneerim, the manger of employment at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), the refugee resettlement agency up on Willow Street. He thanked Harp for her support of IRIS. He said he is a Harp supporter.
Meanwhile at the campaign tables, the Elicker volunteers and the Harp volunteers interacted if not like best pals then respectfully and politely. At Elicker’s table, Laura Snow called the event a great opportunity to sign up volunteers and collect envelopes with campaign contributions. A pile was on the table before her.
Nearby, Harp’s volunteers gave away flyers announcing the formal kick-off rally of the November campaign, Monday at 5:30 p.m. in Wooster Square Park. (U.S. Rep. DeLauro is expected to endorse Harp at the event.)
“I think it’s great our tents our next to each other,” said Elicker.
“People are out here to enjoy this, not to feel they’re under political pressure,” added Harp.
Other organizers of the all-volunteer festival were Matt Smith, Ray Saracco, Troy Strover, and Michele Saunders.
All the money left over after expenses will be given to the children of Cherie Woodworth, said Heimer. Woodworth was a onetime organizer of the festival who died this year from cancer.
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