Mayor Harp Coasts To Third Term; Clifton Graves Elected Probate Judge

Markeshia Ricks PhotoNew Haven voters Tuesday overwhelmingly gave Democrat Toni Harp a third two-year term as mayor and chose fellow Democrat Clifton Graves to become the first new probate judge in 32 years.

Harp won 73 percent of the vote, or a total of 8,293 votes, against two candidates who ended up not actively campaigning in the general election, Sarah Ganong of the Working Families Party (WFP) and petitioning candidate Marcus Paca. (The results do not include absentee ballots)

Paca collected 15 percent of the vote, or a total of 1,592, according to the Independent’s unofficial tally of the machine vote.  Ganong captured 7.8 percent, with a total of 831. She succeeded in her stated goal of the campaign: winning at least 1 percent of the vote in order to secure a position on future municipal ballots for her party, which cross-endorses left-leaning Democrats.

In the race to succeed the retiring Jack Keyes as New Haven probate judge, Democrat Graves won 84 percent of the vote, with a total of 8,253 votes. Republican Melissa Papantones had 16 percent, with 1,648 votes.

Graves told the Independent he felt “humbled and honored” by his victory. He vowed to “build on the legacy and foundation of help and hope being left by Jack Keyes.”

Independent Bloc Joins Board Of Alders

The big surprise of the night was the victory of an independent candidate Steve Winter, against a homegrown Democratic candidate, Rodney Williams, in the race for alder in Newhallville/Prospect Hill’s Ward 21. Winter beat Williams 234-180 in the machine vote. Click here for a previous story detailing the issues and personalities in the race.)

That means the Board of Alders will have two independently-elected members this coming year, because petitioning candidate Hacibey Catalbasoglou won an uncontested race for Yale’s Ward 1 seat. Currently all the 30 members of the board are Democrats.

Winter, an environmental and civil-rights activist, is originally from Rhode Island. He came to New Haven to study philosophy at Yale back in 2007 and fell in love with the Elm City. He lived in the portion of the ward in middle-class Prospect Hill. Williams lives in the Newhallville portion.

Tuesday night, he credited three months of extensive door-knocking for his victory.

“I plan to remain engaged out on the street and the community and continue to organize with folks to solve the many real problems in the ward,” he said at the polls after the results were announced at the Jackie Robinson School polling station. “It starts with kids and improving education and after-school opportunities and making streets safe by improving policing in the community.”

The incumbent Democratic Alder Brenda Foskey-Hill, who’s retiring, supported Winter and walked the ward with him.

Williams, a contractor (owner of Mr. Rock Drywall) who grew up Newhallville and has advocated for more opportunities for black-owned small businesses, remarked: “A lot of East Rock showed up today. But of lot of [Newhallville] people didn’t.

Markeshia Ricks PhotoThe Republicans ran candidates in two out of 30 wards. They both lost: incumbent Democrat Dolores Colon beat Republican John Carlson 223 to 98 in the machine vote (not counting absentee ballots) in City Point’s Ward 6. Democrat Sal DeCola beat Republican Joshua Van Hoesen 609 to 175 on the machines in Morris Cove’s Ward 18.

In Ward 4, incumbent Democratic Alder Evelyn Rodriguez beat petitioning candidate Mayce Torres 234-16.

Democratic Board of Education member Edward Joyner was also reelected. He had a nominal Republican candidate, but she ended up not pursuing the campaign.


Click on the above video to watch Democratic Town Chair Vinnie Mauro and Mayor Harp address the crowd at her victory party at Vanity nightclub on Temple Street, where Harp, speaking without script or notes, declared: “We have a city that really recognizes that every person, no matter where you came from, no matter who you are, no matter the color of your skin, no matter how much education you have or don’t have, you are somebody in New Haven.”

Just Like New York?

Harp’s reelection mirrored that of fellow Democratic Mayor Bill DeBlasio of New York City. Both are progressive Democrats won their first term four years ago. Both won reelection Tuesday with a surprising lack of serious opposition, riding a crest of historically low crime rates, a booming real estate market, and support for immigrant-friendly “sanctuary cities” policies in the Age of Trump.

New Haven’s mayoral politics have been mirroring New York City’s for decades now. That suggests that, while local elections first and foremost come down to the local candidates and issues, broader politics forces also may play a role.


• In 1989, popular long-serving mayors were retiring in both cities —  Biagio DiLieto in New Haven, Ed Koch in New York —  amid rustlings for change at the grassroots. That year, John Daniels became New Haven’s first black mayor. David Dinkins became New York’s first black mayor. Both were long-serving officials in the establishment wing of the Democratic Party. Almost identical coalitions elected both of them: civil-rights outsiders, black establishment insiders, activists from District 1199 health care union. In office, Daniels and Dinkins introduced community policing.

• In 1993, voters in New Haven elected the man Daniels beat in 1989, John DeStefano. Voters in New York elected the man Dinkins beat, Rudy Giuliani. Both promised to govern more forcefully.

• In 2013, voters in both cities were electing a mayor to succeed an incumbent who had been in office for more than a decade (two decades in New Haven’s case). Both elections were highly competitive, featuring Democratic primaries with multiple A-list candidates. Four years later, all A-list challengers sat out the elections in both parties, and the elections weren’t close.

The Scene At Ward 6

Paul Bass Photo One of the few truly contested races took place in the Ward 6 race for alder in City Point and along Howard Avenue.

Around 5 p.m., Democratic alder candidate Colon, Republican alder candidate Carlson, and Republican citywide probate judge candidate Papantones huddled under umbrellas on the corner outside the New Horizons School polling spot, trying to stay out of the persistent rainfall. With few voters in sight, the candidates mostly watched the cars fly down Sargent Drive or, a little farther, slug through traffic on the I-95 Turnpike. Carlson filled out a report on SeeClickFix about a broken section of sidewalk that had turned into a wide puddle.

After an hour, when one voter in a rain-jacket finally sped past, the parties almost missed her; a Republican supporter, Paul Larrivee, chased her down the sidewalk, waving a flyer.

Colon had arrived at the polls 12 hours earlier, at 5:30 a.m., after a restless night. She said she felt confident her team of 50 volunteers, include neighbors from Wards 4 and 6 and members of the New Haven Rising activist group, had turned out the votes she needed. She was confident she’d win, but not by how much. She said she had “more work to do,” citing progress on the Hill-to-Downtown plan and the redevelopment of Church Street South.

Carlson, meanwhile, said that the outstanding quality-of-life issues in the neighborhood suggested that the alder could have done more during her long tenure on the board. “After 16 years as alder, you’d think the roads and sidewalks would be fixed, the community center opened,” he said. “That’s not because it’s the alder’s job exactly, but because if she truly was looking out for the neighborhood, she’d lobby City Hall and get funding.” He expected the final results to be close, he said.

Carlson said neighbors had been receptive to his message, even if they had a different party affiliation. Only one person had yelled at him while door-knocking. “In New Haven, although it’s predominantly Democratic, people are open to ideas. They vote for the better candidate, not for party, when they’re given the choice,” he said. “The problem is they’re rarely given the chance, especially in the Hill.”

His supporters carried signs reading, “Let’s FIX the 6th!” Hector Legun said he’d known Carlson to be a “go-getter” since childhood. “He can effect positive changes in the neighborhood,” he said, citing crime and broken sidewalks, speeding cars and unavailable parking.

Larrivee, another canvasser supporting Carlson, said Colon had served well, but he argued that politicians needed competition to stay honest. A former Reagan Democrat who has since switched his party affiliation to the GOP, Larrivee said he wanted an alder who could “work for residents, not unions or interests that the administration has,” he explained. “We need somebody who works for everybody.”

While most of the day was slow for Papantones as she hit up at least seven neighborhoods (Wards 6, 17, 18, 25, 26, 27 and 30), she said she believes she convinced at least one voter to show up in support. She explained to one voter that probate judges decide whether to institutionalize patients in psychiatric hospitals.

“We still have those?” the voter asked.

Patients are medicated against their will all the time, Papantones answered. “I think that you’ve given me something to go to the polls for,” the voter said.

She wasn’t convinced she’d pull out a victory over Graves, saying that was the “realistic” way to look at the election. “Look, I’m not doing this for personal gain. Probate Court is really important. You need somebody with good judgment, and I think I have that,” she said

On the other side of the judicial race, Maurice Bacote, an ex-con who’s been in the city prison-reentry program that Graves runs, Project Fresh Start, for two years, stood in the rain without an umbrella with a Graves shirt on. He called Graves, the re-entry coordinator, a “great man who could do great things for the city.” Should he and his five-month-old son ever show up in probate, he said he’d want Graves at the front of the courtroom.

Christopher Peak Photo

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posted by: Peter99 on November 8, 2017  7:02am

New Haven continues to drink the Kool Aid. We deserve and have earned the government and services we receive. Does nobody read or understand what is happening in this city?

posted by: robn on November 8, 2017  7:36am

What’s up with Williams comment about East Rock voters vs Newhallville voters? Is he assuming everyone in Newhallville voted for him and vice versa? Given his Balkanized view of the ward I’m really glad he didn’t get elected.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on November 8, 2017  11:08am

Robn, the sad reality is that a substantial number of people vote based on a candidate’s race. The ward is in fact sharply divided on race and household income.

posted by: GroveStreet on November 8, 2017  12:40pm

Fired by Harp
Lost 3 to 1 in primary
Lost 5 to 1 in general

Can he now admit that he has struck out, badly, and go away?

posted by: Patricia Kane on November 8, 2017  3:04pm

In the 2013 General Election 20,769 people voted.
  In the 2015 General Election 12,980 people voted.
  In the 2017 General Election yesterday 8,293 people voted.
  While Harp’s latest win is described as a “coast” and “overwhelming”, her actual vote as a percentage of those voting for her the first time has been steadily declining.
  Unfortunately we don’t have ballots that offer a “none of the above” choice, so it’s hard to interpret what it means when voters just stop showing up. But we can all guess and likely disagree as to what is going on.
  Considering the lack of enthusiasm for one candidate that put another, a tv personality, in the White House, it might be best to be cautious as to what the electorate really thinks about its choices at every level of government.
  FYI “Reform Stamford”, an offshoot of Bernie’s “Our Revolution”, won several seats in Stamford, as did a new group of Waterford Greens who had a winning slate. Madison’s Shoreline Green Party did not win seats, but made a good showing in its first campaign for local offices.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on November 8, 2017  3:20pm

@GroveStreet: It must be exhausting working as judge and jury and without even having the facts! Let’s see what the SEEC determines happens as to both the attempted smear and the circumstances of the firings.
  If the City ends up once again paying legal fees and a settlement for wrongdoing, maybe you’ll wait for some facts next time.
  Some of the toxic personalities behind NH politics, like the head of the union and certain henchmen weren’t confident enough to forego sliming and innuendo from start to finish.
  If Karma exists, there’s more to come.

posted by: robn on November 8, 2017  4:16pm

I noticed the write in slot. Can the NHI tell us if this was used at all?

[Paul: City says it’ll have that info tomorrow.]

posted by: HewNaven on November 8, 2017  4:57pm

In the 2013 General Election 20,769 people voted.
  In the 2015 General Election 12,980 people voted.
  In the 2017 General Election yesterday 8,293 people voted.

Patricia Kane,

Thank you for those numbers. That should be the REAL story this year.

posted by: GroveStreet on November 8, 2017  8:28pm

Patricia Kane,

Revisit your math. There were nearly 11,000 voters (in a nearly uncontested mayoral race).

posted by: Patricia Kane on November 8, 2017  8:57pm

@GroveStreet: I used the numbers available at the time I posted the comment.
11,000 is still less than 12,980. And a lot less than 20,000.

posted by: RobotShlomo on November 9, 2017  5:37am

@Patricia Kane

That’s the sad reality in New Haven. I’ve read that there are roughly 34,000 registered voters. There’s plenty of voters out there to unseat Toni Harp. There were plenty to get rid of DeStefano. But many have just given up on the whole process. I’m wondering how many actually believe there’s “power in abstention, when all they’re doing is making it easier for the incumbents to win. And with the party rules (and someone correct me if I’m wrong here) requiring 2,500 signatures to appear on the primary ballot, while not insurmountable it is certainly an uphill battle to even mount a challenge to the incumbent mayor. It’s almost an unwritten rule in New Haven “do not challenge the incumbent”. I was at least thankful that there was another name on the ballot for mayor this year, but other races were uncontested.

posted by: robn on November 9, 2017  8:29am

Correction; Ward 21 has a steep gradient of income that follows racial lines and geography but as to divisiveness and whether people voted along racial lines, unless you were exit polling, you have no evidence of that.

posted by: Razzie on November 9, 2017  2:27pm

~ RobotShlomo

I don’t see any “sad reality” as you do. More than 12,000 people voted in a rather sleepy election. While ther was a contested citywide race for Probate Judge, the race for Mayor was clearly 1-sided. I is equally likely in my view, that people were very much satisfied with the course set out by Mayor Harp and saw no need to change leadership. It was very much a foregone conclusion that Mayor Harp would win, so why bother to fight the nasty weather to go and vote. During the contested race of 2011, there were significant issues at stake, and candidates with relatively comparable strengths viewing for leadership. Not so much this time. The overwhelming consensus of New Haven residents is that Mayor Harp has done a fine job under difficult circumstances. I don’t attach much difference to whether she got 82% of 12,000 votes, or 54% of 20,000 votes. The people have spoken very loud and clear in both instances.

posted by: HewNaven on November 9, 2017  2:43pm

It doesn’t matter to me if Toni Harp’s only competition was a bucket of dirty dish water, she still got 82% of votes.

posted by: GroveStreet on November 9, 2017  3:57pm

Let’s do a deeper bit of exploration, Patricia Kane.

Harp got around 10,000 votes in 2013. She got closer to 11,000 votes in 2015. Then she got 9,000 this year.

That is not a big dropoff, especially once you consider that her opponent quit the race and the weather sucked.

Perhaps you should direct your attention at the fact that she has had horrible opponents that have suppressed the overall vote.

posted by: robn on November 9, 2017  11:45pm

I didn’t vote for Mayor Harp last time around but did this time. Partly because her opponent was an arrogant, inexperienced demagogue but also because she had balls enough to stick with it in the face of steep state funding cuts. I still don’t agree with much of her policy but prefer that the responsibility of policy follow through is borne by the author.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 10, 2017  10:01am

posted by: HewNaven on November 9, 2017 1:43pm

It doesn’t matter to me if Toni Harp’s only competition was a bucket of dirty dish water, she still got 82% of vote

This is why.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

posted by: NutmegIsPleasant on November 14, 2017  11:01am

Paul, What do the write in candidate data show?

posted by: challenge on November 16, 2017  6:18pm

Is it true more voters came out to vote for Clifton Graves for probate judge than Harp for mayor?Maybe I’m misreading the voting totals.

posted by: Peter99 on November 17, 2017  9:01am

THREEFIFTHS—Your comment is spot on! People just do not understand what they are doing in the voting booth in most cases. They reward politicians who regard them as a herd of docile cattle who follow where they are led without much if any question. The system is rigged and change is not possible because of the herd mentality. The rich get richer etc.