Harp Tells Yalies “Experience” Sets Her Apart

Asked what distinguishes her from the other three Democratic mayoral candidates, Toni Harp offered a single noun.

She offered that noun—“experience”—during a brunchtime meeting with over 30 Yale students crowded Monday afternoon into the South Common Room of the Timothy Dwight College dining hall.

Yale undergraduate Matthew Jackson told Harp at the brunch that he remains undecided in the mayoral race. He asked what sets her apart from opponents Henry Fernandez and Justin Elicker since they all seem to share views on issues like community policing. (Kermit Carolina is also running in the primary.)

“The difference is experience,” responded Harp, who is in her 11th term as a state senator and co-chairs the legislature’s powerful Appropriations Committee. For the last 20 years, New Haven’s mayor has “has no relationships with the governor,” she said. “Over 50 percent of our budget comes from the state of Connecticut. We’ve actually had to have the mayor ask” Yale Vice-President Bruce Alexander and Yale President Rick Levin “to intervene on behalf of the city. Not one of the other candidates have even testified before the General Assembly. They don’t understand how it works. It’s a lifeline for New Haven. I understand how it works. I have a relationship with the governor.”

Jackson said afterwards that he remains undecided. Click on the video above to watch Harp’s full response.

Harp—who’s running in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary—met with the students along with aldermanic candidates Sara Eidelson, Jeanette Morrison and Ella Wood.

The gathering reflected the increasing role Yale students have played in city elections in recent years. They volunteer in droves for mayoral and aldermanic campaings. They comprise a significant bloc of voters and volunteers in not just Eidelson’s campus-carved-out Ward 1, but also Ward 7, where Wood is running, and Ward 22, which Morrison represents. Morrison (pictured), who grew up in New Haven, lives in the Dixwell neighborhood, which Ward 22 mostly covers. But four Yale residential colleges now sit in it, as well. Morrison told the group she “never bought into this unwritten rule” that town and gown are supposed to remain separate.

The mayoral candidates are courting the Yale vote in earnest now that students have returned. Click here to read about Elicker’s greeting to incoming freshmen. Fernandez has a Monday evening campus event planned with actor Danny Glover.

About 20 Yalies have been working with Elicker’s campaign, according to campaign manager Kyle Buda. Fernandez said about 15 Yale students have worked on his campaign on a daily basis. “At least 30” have been working for Harp, according to campaign manager Jason Bartlett.

They include undergraduate Michael Harris. Harris spoke at Monday’s Timothy Dwight lunch about how he met Harp while lobbying at the state Capitol with other students on behalf of mental-health programs in schools. The governor’s budget had called for an across-the-board 10 percent cut to education; that threatened school-based mental-health programs. Harris saw Harp and her fellow Appropriations Committee co-chair, New Haven state Rep. Toni Walker, rescue the programs. Harries also mentioned Harp’s support for the HUSKY health-care program for low-income families Now Harries has been working as the Harp mayoral campaign’s citywide field director.

Harp herself, who tends not to speak at length about her personal accomplishments, did mention a few when addressing the students: working to raise the age from 16 to 18 at which arrestees are considered adults; obtaining state money to create a plan to revive the shuttered Dixwel Community “Q” House; saving money for after-school programs.

In her eight-minute remarks, Harp also promised as mayor to pay more attention to neighborhoods like Dixwell, Newhallville and Fair Haven.

“We’ve done a great job in New Haven with downtown and Yale,” she said. “We have a downtown administration that has absolutely ignored … our neighborhoods.”

Harp chatted briefly with WTNH after the lunch, then prepared to knock on students’ doors.

Monday’s Timothy Dwight College dining hall brunch menu included, in addition to politics, steel-cut oatmeal, pan perdu (aka French toast), chicken burritos, vegetable burritos, and Farro salad with roasted mushrooms.

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posted by: True that on September 2, 2013  2:58pm

Harp is absolutely correct that her experience sets her apart from the other candidates.  Only, I have a different take on the term experience.  If she is referring to the following experiences, then I would concur wholeheartedly:

- Experience not paying one’s income taxes.
- Experience in having a family business that is the largest tax delinquent in the state of Connecticut
- Experience in having a family business that allows its tenants to live in absolute filth
- Experience in being “traumatized” by walking down a street that has been in her senatorial district for more than 20 years.
- Experience in stabbing Holder-Winfield in the back by endorsing him on Friday, then running herself on Monday.
- Experience is directing millions to the city of New Haven and having no idea of how it got spent.
-Experience in misinterpreting high school graduation rates
- Experience in screaming sexism whenever anyone tries to hold her accountable
- Experience in owning a party house in Bethany
-Experience in paying no property taxes in the City of New Haven
- Experience in being beholden to suburban union leadership
-Experience in serving as a mouthpiece for any union willing to endorse her.

Yes, I actually agree with Toni, she is quite experienced.  BTW, John DeStefano has experience.  Should we beg him to stay because he has such experience?

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 2, 2013  6:47pm

And she can’t even come up with simple specifics, like the names Rick Levin and Bruce Alexander.  Harp is an embarrassment.

posted by: HhE on September 2, 2013  6:51pm

Profoundly well said, True that.

posted by: state st on September 2, 2013  7:23pm

ahh ummm whats his name??? you know the president here.How can she not know the president of Yale Universities name,while its Yales unions trying to get her elected.SCARY/SCARY/SCARY!

posted by: Hieronymous on September 2, 2013  8:00pm

Again with the “Harp tends not to speak of her personal accomplishments” interjection. First, I’ve never noticed that about her. Second, if true, that’s really her problem, no? Just a strange way to “report” a story…

posted by: Noteworthy on September 3, 2013  7:09am

More Harp Experience Notes:

1. Has experience in passing the largest tax increase in history

2. Has experience in passing the largest gas tax hike in history

3. Has experience in dramatically increasing state debt and debt service and dramatically increasing state spending

4. Has experience in making healthcare more expensive by radically taxing hospitals

5. Has experience in gutting clean elections laws and opening the floodgates of sanctioned legislative bribes by special interests

6. Has experience in prostituting transparency by helping to craft legislation in secret

7. Has experience in taxing the poor through more gaming and Keno

8. Ditto Truth That Experience List

Bottom Line: Toni Harp has experience making our lives here cost more. She has experience in robbing our family budgets and leaving us struggling to pay our mortgages and taxes - something she has ZERO experience doing.

posted by: robn on September 3, 2013  8:09am


I totally missed it until BS flagged the video content. Sen Harp couldn’t remember the names of the top two officers at Yale!

“...uhhh…what’s his name?”


posted by: HhE on September 3, 2013  12:24pm

What worries me about this is, Sen. Harp does not seam to do her homework.  Sure, I forget the new Presidents name, but if I were going to talk to Yale students, I would have it memorized first. 

Has she gotten her hands around the budget yet?  This affects the New Haven Trifecta of taxes, jobs, and crime. 

I have an idea, take some time of from telling everyone how much experience you have, and how great you are at relationships, and do some studying.

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 3, 2013  1:03pm


Harp speaks in such a mumbly, dispassionate tone, it is really easy to miss the content.

posted by: HhE on September 3, 2013  4:06pm

Bill Saunders and robn, I find Sen. Harp hard to follow, even with a transcript.  Does anyone think that might be deliberite?  A part of coast on my name to victory, because I could not win any other way?

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 3, 2013  6:45pm


That is an interesting strategy.  Part of methinks so too.  It is a learned behavior I notice in people seeking power when they have already been promoted to the level of their incompetence.

I hope people can pay attention enough to muddle through the mumble-sphere.

It is also interesting that Harp’s immediate response to the student’s question, was to stand up, in a position of authority, gesturing over the potential voters.

She spoke of her experience addressing the General Assembly.

I don’t know about that, but if her performance addressing a closed room of twenty-something constituents is any indication, I am not impressed.  I am sure they weren’t either.

Ask yourself New Haven, How many times did you go to the polls to vote for Toni Harp, and there was no other Democratic Choice? 

This is how mediocrity festers and thrives.