Can Elicker Win Black Votes?

Thomas MacMillan Photo(Analysis) Justin Elicker became the sole remaining challenger to Toni Harp for the mayor’s office Tuesday night by capturing five of New Haven’s highest-voting wards—while remaining practically invisible to voters in predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

Overcoming that math could prove his biggest challenge in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 5 general election.

Harp, a state senator who is African-American, captured 49.8 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s four-way Democratic mayoral primary. She hopes to become the city’s first female mayor. The city’s current mayor, John DeStefano, is retiring after 20 years in the job.

Elicker, the only white candidate in the race, came in second with 23.2 percent of the vote. He declared optimism in a speech to supporters Tuesday night, noting that New Haven has over 18,000 registered unaffiliated voters who didn’t get to vote in the primary.

A close look at the ward-by-ward breakdown revealed another hard-to-dispute fact, though: Harp didn’t just receive twice as many votes; she finished strong in neighborhoods all over the city. Elicker, by contrast, came in fourth place in some wards dominated by voters of color.

“Everyone in that room knows that we need a mayor for the whole city, not just for a part of the city,” Tim Holahan (at left in photo) remarked outside the Elicker victory party Tuesday night at O’Toole’s Irish Pub on Orange Street, where the crowd was almost entirely white. Holahan headed Elicker’s successful campaign in Westville’s Ward 25.

“Justin has to figure out how to be that mayor. If he does, he can win.”

Elicker campaigned hard in all neighborhoods of the city. He spoke Spanish regularly on the trail. He did not target his campaign to white voters. He had some visible African-American supporters. He earned respect across the political spectrum for running a smart, strategic, grassroots, issue-focused, publicly-financed primary campaign.

In the end, though, Elicker (pictured) found it hard to break through against better-known candidates of color in numerous parts of the city. He received a meager 15 votes in Newhallville’s Ward 20, for instance. Harp received 569 votes there; Kermit Carolina and Henry Fernandez, who are also black, got 141 and 81, respectively. (Carolina and Fernandez have since dropped out of the race.)

Elicker posted 93 votes in Newhallville’s other main ward, 21, compared to Harp’s 251.

Elicker got a total of 13 votes in the Hill’s Ward 3, 16 votes in the Hill’s Ward 4, 15 in the Hill’s Ward 5; and 19 in West River’s Ward 23 and 29 in West Rock’s and West Hills’ Ward 30.

He outright won Wards 9, 10, and 19, which are predominantly in the East Rock neighborhood (though they include Cedar Hill and slices of Newhallville and Fair Haven); Ward 1, comprising Yale students; Ward 7, which is downtown; Ward 25 in the Westville flats; and Morris Cove’s Ward 18. In most of those wards Harp ran competitively. The exception was white-dominated 18th Ward, which has a history of anti-black incidents (including the torching of a house bought by the housing authority). Ward 18 posed a challenge for Harp: even though the elected officials there backed her (she won the ward committee’s unanimous voice-vote endorsement), Elicker beat her 2-to-1 when voters anonymously made their choices at the polls. The Harp campaign must have had an inkling of that trend: that would explain its final-week press conference and robocall campaign to convince Morris Covers that Elicker had an unstated plan to close their firehouse. (Read about that here.)

Gary Holder-Winfield (pictured at Harp’s Dixwell headquarters Tuesday), a Newhallville state representative who supports Toni Harp, said the math leads to an inescapable conclusion: “The numbers look as though Justin’s support did not come from wards you would normally call black.”

“I don’t think you can win—and I’m not sure you would want to win—without them. You want to become mayor of the city with what looks like a diverse coalition of people behind you,” said Holder-Winfield, who is black. “Especially after having a mayor who has been here so long. Not just ethnicity. Differences of opinion.

“The race is going to go on another two months. Maybe he’ll find a way to do that. At this point, it doesn’t appear very diverse.”

One person contested Holahan’s and Holder-Winfield’s interpretation of the vote: Justin Elicker himself.

“I don’t think that’s there. You can’t do that analysis by any ward,” Elicker insisted in a post-election interview. “Even Ward 10; you all say it’s ‘East Rock.’ But I have strong support in Cedar Hill,” a more racially mixed enclave of six streets northeast of East Rock Park. He said he “consistently” conversed in Spanish with voters and identified Latino supporters in Fair Haven.

Elicker said he “refuse[s] to bend to this idea that people will vote for a candidate based on what that candidate looks like.” At the same time, he acknowledged, “we would be naive to believe race doesn’t impact on this election.”

Asked how he will respond to the possible racial breakdown of the vote, he responded, “We need to do the same thing we’ve been doing: knocking on doors and talking to people.”

Elicker said his campaign will “have a discussion in the next two days about how we’ll broaden” the base in the general-election campaign. But then again, he added, “independent voters live everywhere in the city. People who voted for Henry and Kermit live everywhere in the city.” And, he said, he has a good chance of getting many of those votes.

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posted by: elmcityresident on September 11, 2013  2:42pm

i’m african-american and i’m not familiar with Mr Elicker AT ALL! And i’m pretty sure alot of us aren’t

posted by: Anderson Scooper on September 11, 2013  2:59pm

When Hillary Clinton herself only received about 10% of the “black vote”, I don’t think it’s fair to pretend that yesterday’s phenomena had much to do with Elicker and an outreach failure.

If anything the question should be why do black voters in America still tend to vote strictly along racial lines, not whether Elicker can cure this situation in a battle against an entrenched 20yr incumbent and dean of the black political hierarchy in New Haven.

As Elicker admits, there remain plenty of New Haveners who will vote for him largely because he is white. But that sad fact cuts both ways.

posted by: anonymous on September 11, 2013  3:04pm

A better question may be, can Harp win “black votes”? Voter turnout in this primary was terrible. What percentage of voters who consider themselves black (or anyone for that matter), and who will be eligible to vote in November, actually voted yesterday?

It looks like Harp got about 10% of voters, and Elicker got about 5%.  It’s tough to draw too many conclusions from figures that low, especially since Elicker was one of three non-machine candidates who ran on a good government platform that, given Harp’s 49.8%, clearly appeals across all racial/ethnic groups (Senator Harp has proposed to get rid of some of DeStefano’s good government advances, which has cost her votes among all demographic groups). 

I wonder how comments from journalists and union organizers about “how racist the White, anonymous, house-burning voters of East Shore are” are received by the working class families who live there.

If Harp (or Elicker) do not get out more black voters, they may lose.  They need to get white and other voters out, too.

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on September 11, 2013  3:25pm

Scooper: African Americans still tend to vote along racial lines for the same reason White voters still tend to vote along racial lines. Your argument is akin to a group of White kids sitting in a cafeteria and asking why all of the Black kids are sitting together (See Beverly Tatum’s brilliant book on the topic). If we look at OVERALL voting patterns and not just patterns of one election we see that race remains a salient divide in American elections. Shared skintone isn’t what drove African American support for Harp. Nor will it be what depresses support for Elicker. Issue positions, outreach, and networks are what drive support

posted by: jimjoebob on September 11, 2013  3:27pm

@Anderson: You sentiment, while common, is quite obtuse, IMO. Could it be that black voters vote for black candidates because they yearn to see things improve in their communities, and they believe that people who share their background and experiences will fight harder for them?? The real “sad fact” is not that people tend to vote for what they perceive to be in their & their families’ best interests, but that no matter how often elections raise hopes, results lag far behind.

posted by: Razzie on September 11, 2013  3:32pm

In my view the characteristics of gender and economics will drive the general election voting turnout patterns just as strongly as race..and neither will bode well for Elicker’s chances at victory. On the gender side, it is apparent from NHI comments that Elicker’s most visible supporters are not only white, they are also male dominated. And they come across as the “angry white man” syndrome that simply can’t understand why females would perhaps have a voting preference for a female candidate. Let’s face it, the only people who question why a female would vote for a female on gender-only lines are Males who have a male candidate preference. To others, it matters that their representative “look like them” as a source of empathy.

On the economics side of the equation, increased scrutiny on Elicker and his East Rock centric voting base will leave New Haven voters with the distinct picture of Elicker as being the “Richie Rich” of the campaign—the candidate from New Canaan, and son of a Wall Street attorney. And with Carolina out of the race, Elicker will no longer benefit from having his surrogate lead the racial and character attacks on Sen Harp. For the November vote, Elicker will have to do his own heavy lifting in order to win over large numbers of voters in areas where he is still a virtual unknown. It is doubtful he can successfully tear Sen Harp down while building himself up at the same time.

posted by: Pardee on September 11, 2013  4:27pm

“The exception was white-dominated 18th Ward, which has a history of anti-black incidents (including the torching of a house bought by the housing authority). Ward 18 posed a challenge for Harp: even though the elected officials there backed her (she won the ward committee’s unanimous voice-vote endorsement), Elicker beat her 2-to-1 when voters anonymously made their choices at the polls.”

The incident referenced goes back to 1992.  That is probably why there was no “read here” link. Many of us were not even living here in 1992.  Could you please provide links to some of the other “anti-black incidents?” Maybe some more recent ones. I need to get educated.

Also, “when voters anonymously made their choices at the polls.” Is Ward 18 the only ward to vote anonymously? Or does this imply we all wear paper bags while voting?  Just curious.

posted by: Brian V on September 11, 2013  4:28pm


You said it. I can not believe the editor of this paper would blame an entire neighborhood of being racist, due to one incident perpetrated by 1 person (or a tiny group of people?) -what? 30 years ago?

Really Mr Bass?
Why don’t you walk the halls of Nathan Hale or any of our Parks and see how diverse our community is. Wow, I can’t believe you wrote that.
Funny because just this morning I had a conversation about the fairness of this paper in it’s coverage of the election.
My friend was arguing the poor light that the paper had cast on Mr Elicker and I actually defended your coverage- until now.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind who you support now.

[Editor: I have written many articles over the years about a much broader, deeper tradition or racial incidents in Morris Cove. I attended on particularly heated meeting at St. Rose’s church where the late Father Nash wrestled with those issues with the neighborhood. I know the neighborhood has gotten more diverse. That’s a topic I’ve returned to often in conversations with people who have lived there a while as well with people who have moved there more recently—how much has that changed the racial dynamic when it comes to elections and the comfort level of people of color who have moved in. I’ve gotten conflicting reports. I was actually surprised about what happened in Ward 18 in this election.

[Thank you for informing my about your discovery of whom I support. Because I had no idea whom I support. ]

posted by: 32knot on September 11, 2013  4:35pm

How long ago was that porch burned?? Doesn’t the Cove deserve a chance to change and improve?  There are a more African Americans living and walking around the Cove than even 5 years ago with little or no issues that have been reported. I am suprised that the NHI would take such a back handed swipe at the Cove and dredge up old history,is it an effort to drive controvercy?? My take is a lot of Cover residents are sick of their taxes going up and up and see MS Harp only making that issue worse since she seems a bit oblivious on taxes in New Haven. I bet they trust Justin a bit more than Toni to handle their money.

posted by: FacChec on September 11, 2013  5:06pm

The question is…Can Elicker win “Black votes”.

Correction, make that minority votes.

Of course he can, Destefano did it for twenty years in a row. The mayor first built an organization of surrogates encompassing all of the ethnic groups in the city.

Justin ran the perfect type of campaign focused entirely on his base of voters. With three minority candidates in the race I would have employed the same strategy. With 3300 votes Justin out performed Kerekes 2011 primary total by 400. As you can see 400 votes still is now a large enough increase to justify the primary route. Perhaps Justin should have tried the straight independent route. Maybe other in the future will learn this.
Nevertheless, Justin must now expand his base of surrogates and field operatives in the wards he performed poorly in, as well as, modify his message, starting with a reduction of the 75 solutions to 10, because the 75 solutions far outstrip the real problems affecting the city.
Justin will have to stream line his message to better focus on basis city services that under Destefano have long ignored, like community initiatives(after school programs, safety health and welfare concerns, trees, sidewalks, streets and housing enforcement, but equally important, show you Face in the place, escorted by neighborhood surrogates.
And even after all this, the odds are great that Justin will not prevail; however, if he is serious about being Mayor of New Haven, he will stay in New Haven and build on this experience.

posted by: Brutus2011 on September 11, 2013  5:12pm

There are many interesting points of view here.

I am a minority male of African American (mom) and European (dad) descent who was raised with my mom’s family. My acculturation is pretty obvious however I identify myself primarily as African American and I fiercely love and honor my ancestors. So people look at my complexion and think I am either lying or crazy. But I say f*ck ‘em cause I am what I am regardless of what others think.

I can’t speak for the other A-A’s in this community. I can only speak for myself. And yes, I want to vote for a minority candidate. I thought Gary was a fantastic choice because he is smart, actually very smart, educated, articulate, has a good appearance, sincerely wants to be a good representative of the people, and to boot, he’s, unlike me, obviously black. But he caved and joined the establishment embodied in the Harp candidacy.

Now before people start hating me, let me say that I think Sen. Harp is a very attractive (in many ways) candidate and the fact that she is a woman and black are definite positives form me. However, I am first and foremost against any continuation of the substance and style of DeStefano that I cannot support anyone who I see as substantively like him.

Unfortunately, that is how the Harp campaign has revealed itself to me. And our wonderful Xavier aside, I perceive the OneCity guy as well.

(I have to say this: Gary Holder-Winfield, you would have won! or at least I fervently wanted you to win, but nothing but love man.)

Justin Elicker is my choice because, between him and Ms. Harp, he is the most unlike DeStefano by a large margin. Yes, he is white. And yes, he is from a seemingly privileged background. However, he is the candidate left who will most change the New Haven is run and governed.

Now a word of caution to the Elicker campaign. You need to further research and really understand the issue of public education here. You have drunk the privatization kool-aid.

There is an antidote. Find it.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 11, 2013  5:20pm

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: Over taxed,Taxpayer on September 11, 2013  5:32pm

I don’t know how anyone can trust Justin to straighten out property taxes when he was part of the Johnny D machine that created the problem; suddenly he’s this Maverick who takes no responsibility for the current mess.
  Moreover,I have not heard one single thing that he’ll do to help reduce taxes. At least Harp has the guts to come out against Livable City; that in itself would help reduce the budget; what has Justin come out with ? what department or programs would he eliminate to help the budget?
    The fact is that he does not care about reducing taxes; if he did he would take an unpopular stance on cutting some programs; and he would have supported Kerekes during the last election cycle, as the laters platform was based upon lowering taxes.

posted by: Eddie on September 11, 2013  5:45pm

To be fair to Justin, I don’t know how his campaign resources were distributed across the city.  But, I find it hard to believe that he won only 15 out of 806 votes in Ward 20, while giving this ward the same attention that he gave East Rock, Westville, and Fair Haven.  This is only 1.86% of the vote share!!!  Are we to believe that Justin had the same canvassing operations in ward 20 and 25, but managed to produce a staggering 344 more votes in ward 25?   

We do know that according to Justin’s public canvassing schedules, he hosted far more canvasses out of East Rock, Westville, and Fair Haven than other neighborhoods.  From my own observations there seemed to be a disparity of Elicker volunteers and signs at polling stations across the city.  We also know that his campaign contributions were concentrated in particular neighborhoods, and now we have the election results that are very unequal across the city.  Admittedly, my analysis is casual, but given all of the information I have, it is hard not conclude that Elicker’s focus was biased towards particular neighborhoods.

I would actually like to be proven wrong on this point.  One of the most compelling aspects of recent BOA campaigns and the Harp campaign is the coalition of leaders that these campaigns have built.  The depth of leadership in every neighborhood of this city is actually quite profound.  I’m convinced that this is the group of leaders who will bring this city together and collectively move it forward.  I hope that Justin has begun or is beginning to engage this leadership as well.  Without this engagement his 75 fresh solutions are beginning to reek of the harrowing silence that leads to 15 votes in a ward that consistently produces some of the highest turnout rates in the city.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 11, 2013  5:56pm

For Black folks talking abot being a Democrat.
This is for you.

You give white politicians all of your support, and get nothing in return. You put the Democrats first, and they put you last——-MALCOLM X (from his speech called, the Ballot or the Bullet

I don’t profess to have much political knowledge. I would not go out and endorse either party. I see some short comings in both parties, and some good in both parties, but I would not endorse either party——DR. KING (interview with Mike Wallace, 1958)

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)

posted by: cp06 on September 11, 2013  6:10pm

@Over taxed,Taxpayer
You say:
“have not heard one single thing that he’ll do to help reduce taxes. At least Harp has the guts to come out against Livable City; that in itself would help reduce the budget.”

How would getting rid of Livable City reduce the budget? I think her proposal was to assign its functions to other departments. So, there is not less staff people, just staff people who were previously working for Livable City, assigned to other departments.

That doesn’t save money. But it might not create an ideal structure in which to carry out the functions of LCI.

And, the functions of LCI are vital—unless you want to live with unchecked blight.

Not sure what Harp is proposing here—that there are too many people employed by the city (from what I’ve read, this is hardly true) or that blight isn’t important.

posted by: IloveMYcity203 on September 11, 2013  6:12pm

Yes, I am African American (if anyone is curious). Yes, I am independent (if anyone is curious)

I would comment, but “Threefifths” hit it on the NOISE with his first comment, and then hit a grand slam with the second argument.

I grew up in the “Hill” section of New Haven, and “Threefifths,” if I told you the amount of times that I have tried to explain that to people in my neighborhood as well as other neighborhoods in New Haven that are predominately minorities, the number would be astonishing.

It is not until they get that concept, that everything else will make sense. The problem is they don’t understand. CASE CLOSED!

@Brutus2011: I loved your comment as well. I agree with you 100%

posted by: cp06 on September 11, 2013  6:15pm

I think its not just Black people Elicker may have a problem connecting with, but any lower income people of various ethnicities, even white. It cannot be just me who thinks this. There is an air of privilege and entitlement about him that I find hard to get past. I also do not see how his background and upbringing in ultra-wealthy New Canaan lend themselves to adeptly managing a city such as New Haven, even if he’s lived here for six years.

posted by: sccampion on September 11, 2013  6:59pm

As a Elicker campaign volunteer in the 18th Ward, the following is my perspective on his stunning victory.
  For the past several election cycles, a coalition of independent Dems running the continuum of conservative to progressive democratic philosophy has been steadily growing.
This coalition produced victories for Malloy in the primary & general election (Foley was expected to win). The coalition also supported Jeffrey Kerkes and joined like-minded Republicans and Unaffiliated voters in the 2011 General Election to turn in a near victory against Mayor DeStefano.
  The coalition is multi-cultural, multigenerational. The voters embrace the principle that elected officials are, first and foremost, obligated to their constituents thru shared governing with the goal of a fair and equal participation by residents and not special interest groups.
  Justin Elicker won the contest by spending hours and shoe leather, meeting Ward voters, listening to both supporters and opponents in person and by phone, and by attending countless meetings to get a feel of what issues were important to the voters. As one elderly voter told me “ He is authentic. He tells me what he believes and not empty words to get my vote.”
The voters in my Ward are weary of “politics as usual”. Although elected officials made promises at election time, we have learned that our tax dollars did not translate into a successful public school system for all our children, adequate and efficient public safety services, and a respectful municipal government that does not put down and shut down residents’ involvement in tough city decisions.
  For the General Election, Justin Elicker will build coalitions in all 30 Wards. New Haven voters want a new era of municipal governing. Voting for business as usual will yield the same, sorry results.
  Ward 18 supported Justin because they recognized a leader who will be obligated to only one group, the residents of our great city.

posted by: woosterbill on September 11, 2013  7:02pm

Like Brutus2011, I was originally a Holder-Winfield supporter and would be thrilled to see a minority female mayor…provided she represented a positive change in the leadership of the city.

Unfortunately, Holder-Winfield sold out to the party establishment, and Toni Harp represents anything but a positive change from the two decades of DeStefano that we finally have the opportunity to put behind us.

If you’re a minority voter and are unhappy with the status quo in New Haven, then you should absolutely vote for the candidate who will actually bring positive change, regardless of that candidate’s gender or race.

I don’t know whether or not minority voters will support Elicker, but I strongly believe that they should and fervently hope that they will.

posted by: TheMadcap on September 11, 2013  7:07pm

Elicker is not going to win the black vote, end of story. The black community is going to for Toni Harp, and yes I’m going to say it, it’s because she’s black. But here’s the thing and why it irks me when white people go “black people need to stop voting on racial lines.” The black community isn’t just supporting any candidate that happens to be black. If that were true the Republican party could fix its giant demographic problem by just getting some more black nominees. Somehow I have a feeling though even if the GOP in 2016 nominees for president and VP were both black, the black community would still go 90% for the Democratic nominee. It could just be in an election where you agree with most of the candidates(I mean, even if they had some serious policy differences, let’s be real, this was a primary between 4 liberal Democrats who policy wise would probably vote with each other at least 80% of the time), if you’re a minority, you might just choose the minority candidate. It’s someone you feel like might connect with your community more, and on top of it, most of the time when you vote in your life, especially for high office, it’s for a white person.(and a white man at that)

posted by: Citizen X on September 11, 2013  8:14pm

Threefifths, thanks for 50-year-old quotes, but they have no relevance today.

New Haven has had mayors since 1784 and in the 229 years since, the City has been under white mayoral control for all but four years. Now there are claims that black people won’t vote for a white mayor, which is laughably stupid.

Perhaps Justin Elicker has been too busy writing position papers without getting any input from people who know the City and the system better than he has experienced in his six years in town. And, just maybe, some folks are offended by that.

And maybe because he has decided to ignore the City’s Democrats — who soundly rejected his platform and ideas — folks are seeing him as a man who has more ambition than class and gratitude.

You lost, Justin. Lick your wounds, listen to people (and not just your fellow East Rockers) and try again later.

posted by: UBHolden on September 11, 2013  9:34pm

i find the comments here quite interesting in many ways. To state that Toni Harp “represents a continuation of the style and substance of John DeStefano” reveals how little the writer knows about her becuase she is quite the opposite in so many ways. That simply is not true or accurate.  Like many here, I too had high hopes for Gary H-W’s campaign, even though I thought he wasn’t ready yet. Regardless, Johnny D’s departure opened an opportunity and he took it.  I felt he could grow into the job like many white folks have done before him.  Then . . . his candidacy went nowhere! I found him to be aloof, he wasn’t reaching out to anyone, he wasn’t saying anything. It was hard to see him as a convincing candidate.  OK, maybe the legislature being in session is a valid excuse but he knew that when he got in.  It is no surpirse to me that some African-American folks felt he was stuck in the water and wasn’t the appealing candidate they expected.  Hence, pressure on Toni to get into the race. Lastly, I admire Justin’s campaign.  He kept it clean, focused on the issues, and stayed away from the personal attacks.  He also reached out to people across the city, had good ideas, and presented himself as a compelling candidate.  Unfortunately, the electorate didn’t think it was his time yet.  I am confident that will change in the near future.  I agree that race is a huge factor in how people vote.  Good, bad, or indifferent—it is what it is.

posted by: beyonddiscussion on September 11, 2013  10:18pm

I think he is a good East Rock alderman who gets a lot of positive group-think reinforcement from his neighbors. But he has to grow, reach outside his comfort zone and develop real empathy. You lead with your heart, not your head. When you hold up eggs and tout the benefits of urban chicken farming, folks afraid to even walk in their backyard because of gunfire are going to look at him like he’s from a different planet.

posted by: HenryCT on September 11, 2013  10:38pm

Tuesday, Harp won over 50% in 19 wards, over 70% in 4 wards - 4, 16, 20, 23. She won outright 23 wards: 2-6,8, 11-17,20-24, 26-30. She did not come in last in any ward.

Elicker won over 50% in only 2 wards, 10 & 18; won 7 wards 1, 7, 9, 10, 18, 19, 25. He came in last in 8 wards - 3, 4, 5, 16, 20, 23, 29, 30.

For Elicker to win in November he has to convince a large number of Democrats who voted for one of the 3 losers in Tuesday’s primary to vote for him on an independent line. He has to convince not only Fernandez and Carolina to back him, he has to convince those who voted for them and against him that he isn’t - contrary to his rhetoric - more business as usual. Fernandez’s recent fliers compared his own manifold experience against Elicker’s very limited experience. For Fernandez to back Elicker, Henry will have to renounce the principle that experience is important. Harp has far more experience than Elicker and it’s the kind that a large number of New Haveners recognize and respect.

Elicker has to convince independents, higher and lower income, white and minority, to buy his line that the labor-community coalition that in 2012 moved the Board of Alders in the direction of jobs, neighborhood needs and demands is not working in their interests and that he is not an elitist, well-to-do, New Canaanite, who despite not working well with his fellow Alders will somehow work with them if elected mayor.

Elicker may believe that independents won’t vote Democratic in November because two years ago so many voters, including a bunch from the Democratic Party gave independent newcomer Kerekes a close call at becoming mayor. But just as Party members vote independent, independents also vote Party. Many independents will recognize Harp’s accomplishments and Elicker’s limitations. 

Harp’s victory came about because so many voters recognized her as the best candidate of the four to become mayor and lead our city. Elicker will have to change that recognition.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 11, 2013  11:11pm

posted by: Citizen X on September 11, 2013 8:14pm

Threefifths, thanks for 50-year-old quotes, but they have no relevance today.

Maybe not to you.Have you heard the Malcolm X - Ballot or Bullet.It has relevance today.

Relevance today.
We must control the politics and the politicians of our community. They must no longer take orders from outside forces. We will organize, and sweep out of office all Negro politicians who are puppets for the outside forces. - Malcolm X

posted by: HhE on September 11, 2013  11:37pm

Mr. Bass, you clearly support Sen. Harp.  Anyone who listen to you on NPR knows this.  You spent as much time talking about her—all in glowing terms—than the other candidates combined.  Speaking of Elicker supporters as people who raise chickens, “We moved to the city to get away from that smell.” you mocked us.  You also mocked TBNH.

posted by: Gener on September 12, 2013  12:13am

Toni Harp has some fresh new ideas. She will fix New Haven because she has so many awesome groundbreaking ideas.
Other cities that fall into the same economic spectrum will be envious of New Haven because of all the fresh new ideas proposed by Toni Harp.

posted by: anonymous on September 12, 2013  6:18am

HenryCT: Despite a huge name recognition advantage, not to mention untold capital and staff resources, Harp got less than 50% of votes among hardcore Democrats. There is something seriously wrong with a candidate who can pull that off.

Now, Elicker has months to build his name recognition. His challenge will be countering the Linda McMahon-sized pool of dirty money that will be dumped on Harp, including that from her family business, whil sticking with his noble Democracy Fund principles.

No matter what happens, things look so bad for Harp’s funders that she has flipped from wanting to participate in the Democracy Fund to wanting to get rid of what is one of the most progressive elections institutions in the Northeast.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on September 12, 2013  7:39am

While there are the occassional off-the-wall comments posted here, reading the comments above convinces me more than ever that the commentariat here represent the above average intellect - especially when it comes to politics - here in this city.

As a registered “Unafilliated” (as NH calls us lol), I have largely kept quiet during the primary season of this election.  But, I have also refrained from commenting on some stories because I felt that others had already stated, near exactly, my point of view, and sometimes better than I would have.  Such is the case in this story in SEVERAL comments, though I won’t reveal which ones (lol).

BY FAR, the comment section of this publication is the best thing going for it.  It might even be better were the Editors not censoring, without explanation, selected comments that we never get to see.

posted by: 32knot on September 12, 2013  8:49am

It is very difficult to report straight news and then switch hats and write news analysis or editorials. If the readers are not good at sniffing out the difference or miss the header a writer runs the real risk of being labeled as favoring one side of a story or other sides. The intent is overcome by the perception. NHI knows this trueism but not all readers. I would suggust that news reporting and news ANALYSIS/editorials be labeled better.

posted by: obi on September 12, 2013  9:03am

@Threefilths>>We must control the politics and the politicians of our community. They must no longer take orders from outside forces. We will organize, and sweep out of office all Negro politicians who are puppets for the outside forces. - Malcolm X
Very applicable today and especially to Harp / Bartlett campaign.  But unfortunately there are far too many less uneducated voters in the wards toni won.  For many of them they vote along party lines or who their alder person supports, and often know nothing of the candidates platform.  If one was to look at where most of toni’s campaign money came from it would give a clear picture of how she would lead if she should win. Should she win, in two years, ask are we better off now or before? The answer would be, as bad as it was with Johnnie boy it was better with him. Not sure how Fernandez supporters will vote but I think many of Carolina’s will support Elicker as I will. For the city of New Haven Elicker is twtg.  For all career politicians we need term limits.

posted by: robn on September 12, 2013  9:52am

Nobody thought that white people would be falling over themselves to vote for a skinny black guy from Hawaii but they did.

posted by: Eddie on September 12, 2013  10:39am


Toni beat Justin by more votes than he won.  Some have argued that candidates are treating the primary as a runoff.  Yet in nearly every runoff system in the world, there would not be a second round of voting because Toni won so decisively.  Many runoff systems, such as New York, set the threshold at 40%.  Others require an absolute majority, but also declare a winner if the leading candidate beats the second place candidate by 5-15%.  Given that Toni won 49.8% of the vote, it is also hard to imagine a scenario, in which Justin could win in an IRV system.  The Democratic primary is not a runoff election, and in our actual electoral system, Toni also decisively won the nomination. 

Of course, Justin can and will run in the general election.  But if we use the criteria of just about any electoral system in the world, instead of your arbitrary standards that would favor Justin no matter the outcome, the primary election was precisely a decisive victory for Toni.

posted by: mstratton on September 12, 2013  11:19am

NHI’s laser beam focus on divisive stereotypes is disturbing. Over the past several months they have chosen to focus on wealth and race as opposed to character and ideas. I suppose that these populist articles sell “newspapers” or “clicks” but they dredge up old prejudices that divide and hurt us as a community. Paul—in the 21st century most of us have risen beyond race and wealth when we evaluate one another. Your 60s flashbacks are antiquated and hateful. My belief is that people voted for Toni or Justin not because of race but because they made a judgement as to what was best for them and the city. Lets rise above race and wealth baiting. You vastly underestimate how smart the electorate is in New Haven and its insulting.

posted by: LuvNewHaven on September 12, 2013  11:25am

I agree with knot32, 100%.

How hard is it to write “EDITORIAL: Can Elicker Win Black Votes?” instead of just the latter?  It’s not.  It takes maybe a second or two.  That would greatly enhance this site.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 12, 2013  12:27pm

posted by: mstratton on September 12, 2013 11:19am

. My belief is that people voted for Toni or Justin not because of race but because they made a judgement as to what was best for them and the city. Lets rise above race and wealth baiting. You vastly underestimate how smart the electorate is in New Haven and its insulting.

You sound like a white liberal. It is a fact that the Dems Create Monolithic Black Voting by tell black folks we are in your corner.Black folks also vote Democratic –because their families have always voted for democrats.Black folks vote without Leveraging Political Power.Jews,Gays Latino vote with Leveraging Political Power.Blacks like I said donot.

posted by: jimjoebob on September 12, 2013  12:55pm

@ mstratton: You say we should “rise above race and wealth baiting”.

Unfortunately, many people use the word “baiting” as synonym for “discussion that I find uncomfortable and possibly inimical to my political agenda”. Look around yourself: do you think we live in a city that isn’t massively segregated by race, neighborhood-by-neighborhood? Do you see no disparities in wealth in this town, or parallel disparities in political power?

If divisions in wealth and ethnicity are defining characteristics of the reality we live in, what do we gain by pretending that they don’t exist? And by “we”, I mean the city as a whole—obviously, those who are both wealthy and white have a *great deal* to gain by pretending that these things don’t exist, and by urging others to ignore them as well. Ignoring racism and plutocracy does not help us to “rise beyond” them, and discussing these issues forthrightly does not perpetuate them. Indeed, the exact opposite is the truth.

posted by: michaelnogelo on September 12, 2013  1:20pm

Over taxed,Taxpayer wrote about Elicker: “I have not heard one single thing that he’ll do to help reduce taxes.”

I encourage you to read his proposals for city budget reform here:

posted by: LuvNewHaven on September 12, 2013  2:33pm

If this wasn’t a purposefully sensational headline, it would have at least read, “Can Elicker win more black votes?” or “Can Elicker win enough black votes?”.

posted by: canadachris on September 12, 2013  2:54pm

What does Justin Elicker really know about the Black neighborhoods? How much time has he spent in Newhallville or Dixwell or Brookside and so forth? Campaign stops do not count as experience. Has he walked the streets without an entourage? Does he know the community leaders? Has he worshiped in one of the many wonderful churches in the neighborhoods? There is no doubt in my mind that Justin, if elected, would become the mayor of East Rock, Westville and Ward 18. It will be interesting to see if Carolina sells his soul to Elicker. The plan: Kermit helps split the Black vote and gets political favors in return. Is Kerm a smart enough politician to realize that he would soon be cast out of the Elicker inner circle he so desperately desires.

Mr. Elicker is a man in a hurry. Shortly after he moves to the city he runs for alderman. Shortly after he becomes an alderman he decides to run for mayor.  What’s next? Rosa DeLauro’s seat in Congress? And if he loses the mayoral election, as I think he will, how long does he stay in New Haven before he looks for another town to poach? Mr. Elicker, slow down, get a job that gives you REAL management experience, learn about ALL the neighborhoods of our city. This election is important for the city. But I fear you do not really care about New Haven, you care only about your ambition and ego.

posted by: ramonesfan on September 12, 2013  6:09pm

If Willona was running for mayor, I think I’d vote for her.  After all, both she an Toni originally hail from Chicago.  And we also need a woman in the mayor’s office, though I’m not sure why.

posted by: westville man on September 12, 2013  8:23pm

Canadachris- please get a few things straight here:  kerm has no desire-none- to be in Elickers inner circle.  Any “deal” he would strike would be for the children and poor folks of this city who’ve been a low priority to past administrations.  Nothing for him. And certainly no “selling his soul”.  Ridiculous…

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 13, 2013  8:45am

posted by: canadachris on September 12, 2013 2:54pm
What does Justin Elicker really know about the Black neighborhoods? How much time has he spent in Newhallville or Dixwell or Brookside and so forth?

You have Black Folks who do not know about the Black neighborhoods.Your point.

Does he know the community leaders?

What makes a person a community leader.

Has he worshiped in one of the many wonderful churches in the neighborhoods?

Which one is wonderful.

Your point.

posted by: LuvNewHaven on September 13, 2013  9:17am

In the electoral system of just about any country in the world, there aren’t just TWO political parties.

Many democracies, including ones that the United States has built from the ground up, are parliamentary in nature…so you don’t end up with a mess like we have here, where one party can dominate local politics absolutely and without question.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on September 13, 2013  9:44am

Cedar Hill is a black community who also houses large housing for Columbus house…clean and sober houses and early release houses and Leway (aids and hiv housing)  which we all just supported them adding more housing too.

When Justin came to this city 7 years ago he almost instantly became a dear friend to all of us through our garden work and community outreach.  Our community as most will testify was forgotten.  No cops, crime, and kids in trouble, our part of state street is frogger lane! And slumlords!.  Nothing in this city is easy to make happen we all know that…but Justin thinks outside the box. 
-He got us a beat cop who has been here for close to a year now!

-We finally for the FIRST time ever have cops that actually patrol our area! And he keeps on top of the PD and even goes to their weekly meetings to make sure of it!!!!!!

- He got the business to form a Merchants association…who now works with the Block watch to do community evens and to make the area safer!

- He helped us shut down a rooming house that was dangerous and illegal and the root of many of our communitys issues…this landlord has many bad propertys across the city. We are one of the few community that won a fight against him because of Justin and LCI!! And a few other depts..

- He has got kids jobs, and when he could not find jobs for the kids he CREATED THEM!!
- He has helped our seniors stay in their homes!

- We have trees on state street now to help slow traffic and we will soon be seen a permanent speed sign going up (ya know the kind that shows how fast you are going)

posted by: cedarhillresident! on September 13, 2013  9:47am

part 2

-Worked with people to get in programs and get jobs.
-we had one of the worst play ground in the city- before justin pics , first he got a large group of people to make it safe and painted it. And then he fought and got all new equipment…one piece at a time, but he got it done!!!  Now our kids have a safe place to play…a once empty play ground is now filled with familys from CEDAR HILL…..getting to KNOW EACHOTHER! So this was a double fix!! Not just the playground but the people to.
- He got the motor bikes under control (which was a fair haven issue he fixed for them but it indirectly helped us! Because they came speeding though our area!
- We worked with the Latino soccer league and the Ecuadorian volley ball league in our area to make them a welcomed sight in the community on the weekends .
- even simple thing like getting graffiti removed, streets sweeped, our vendors parking lot cleaned. WITH A REALLY GREAT SIGN that says WELCOME TO CEDAR HILL!!!  He gave us our identify back! And without the need to gentrify like I see happening in some areas!
And there are a half a dozen other projects that we still have going.

What is happening in Cedar Hill can happen in other areas if Justin is given the reins….this is why we support him so much! We have seen what he can do. But to say he no clue??? I beg to differ and the people of cedar hill would to.

posted by: jimjoebob on September 13, 2013  10:19am

@cedarhillresident: That’s very interesting info, and this is exactly what Elicker needs to communicate to the rest of the city if he wants to win.

What I question about Elicker is not his values or his proposed policies, but rather whether he has the political acumen to build a large amount of support outside of his base. I’m not sure that he actually understands what he’ll have to do to beat Harp, and then to govern effectively in a city that is starkly divided between his current constituency (much wealthier and whiter than the median) and Harp’s likely voters (much poorer and blacker).

His remarks on Tuesday night suggest that he believes that he can get above 50% in November by recruiting voters *outside* of Harp’s base. This is almost certainly a path to failure, and even if he miraculously scraped by to victory, governing as mayor would be challenging in such a class- and race-divided atmosphere.

The only way he can win, and govern effectively after winning, is to poach a significant portion of voters who are currently inclined to vote for Harp. And the only way he’ll achieve *that* is to tear down Harp’s currently high reputation among black New Havenites, and somehow recruit supporters in black neighborhoods. Trumpeting his successes in Cedar Hill would be a great place to start, but the fact that he hasn’t yet done so speaks volumes. In a city whose biggest challenge is inequality, he has made budget-balancing his central issue. This is a great issue if you want to appeal to the whiter & wealthier side of New Haven’s divide, because their biggest worry is that New Haven is slowly turning into Detroit. It has little to no appeal on the other side of the divide, where most people are struggling so much that the prospect of *less* municipal spending is hardly going to elicit shouts of joy.

posted by: sunshine44 on September 13, 2013  8:13pm

Many comments after this article show that people are judging and making incorrect assumptions about Elicker just because of the color of his skin, without doing any research or knowing who he is as a person and what he stands for.  Isn’t this the kind of bias that we have been trying to move away from over the years? 
The fact that someone posted that Elicker has an “air” of privilege is absurd.  Elicker has put his heart, soul, and sweat into his ward and this city - working next to citizens every day to fix up East Rock Park, and working to decrease illegal dirt biking in the city, as examples.  He has walked around all neighborhoods in the city and attended church services, without an entourage.  The whole goal of him not taking big donations is so that he can represent New Haven citizens, and NOT special interests groups, like Harp will be influenced by.  And, he has given out his personal phone number to the city for people to call him to share their ideas.  Has Harp given out hers?

Harp was driven around with her entourage on election day, even with an umbrella holder dude.
She is completely removed from the average person, living in a house that has twice the property value as Elicker’s, wearing a different fancy outfit every day, and only going into certain neighborhoods with the police showing her around:

Do you not judge her by the same criteria as you do Elicker just because she has a different color skin?  Please do your research on Elicker before you make uninformed judgments – give him a fair shot based on his integrity, detailed plan for the city, and results that they he has achieved for New Haven citizens.  It is our duty as citizens to make informed decisions when we vote, not to judge candidates by what they look like.