Harp Endorses Graves For Mayor

Melissa Bailey PhotoThe politician most feared to unseat Mayor John DeStefano threw her support Tuesday behind attorney Clifton Graves, lending him a popular ally for the two-week sprint to the primary.

State Sen. Toni Harp gave Graves her official endorsement Tuesday at a rally in the basement of the Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church at 217 Dixwell Ave. The event drew about 85 supporters to the church in the heart of the city’s African-American community.

Graves, along with Anthony Dawson and Jeffrey Kerekes, is one of three Democrats challenging nine-term incumbent Mayor DeStefano in a Sept. 13 primary.

In a six-page written speech, Harp emphasized the need for transparency and for answers to the violence plaguing the city, which has seen 23 homicides so far this year.

“We need leadership that has the courage to look upstream and to find out why the bodies are floating down the river,” Harp said.

“New Haven needs Clifton Graves.”

Harp, a 10-term Democratic incumbent and the city’s most popular African-American officeholder, was the opponent Mayor DeStefano’s allies feared most as he set out this spring to seek re-election. A voter survey conducted by DeStefano’s campaign focused on Harp’s chances of winning the race, even though she wasn’t running.

Harp, who entered politics as an alderwoman in 1987, has consistently topped internal polls of potential mayoral opponents, according to a former DeStefano aide.

Graves called her endorsement Tuesday the “biggest moment” in his campaign besides making it onto the ballot for the primary. The endorsement should lend him a competitive edge over Dawson, the only other African-American candidate in the mayor’s race. It comes on the heels of one of the toughest weeks for the Graves campaign, when questions about past legal problems surfaced in the media.

Three Harps ran the show Tuesday. Toni Harp’s husband, Wendell, has already been working hard on Graves’ campaign, including training volunteers for a successful petition drive. Wendell’s brother Ray emceed the event. The Harp stamp of approval helped draw a string of endorsements, including that of former Hartford Mayor Carrie Saxon Perry, the first female African-American mayor of a major American city. “I don’t know Attorney Graves except for what Wendell said of him,” she said before announcing her support.

Toni Harp’s appearance drew politicos like Deputy City/Town Clerk Sally Brown, who said she was just there to support Harp, not to take sides in the mayor’s race.

Harp began by saying life “should be good for everyone” in New Haven: The state has paid over $1 billion to rebuild the city’s schools; new buildings are rising at Yale, Yale-New Haven Hospital and Gateway Community College; and the city’s population grew at the same rate as the state for the first time in 80 years.

“Yet, much of New Haven is under siege by fear and distrust,” she said. “Every day we hear about someone being shot, maimed or killed in the streets. ... No neighborhood is exempt from the fear that this violence breeds.”

“This year we can even say that this violence and fear has slipped into our middle-income neighborhoods and can no longer be written off as a problem of the poor communities. The fear is pervasive and impacts every resident of the city.”

Harp said state representatives and senators from the area asked the city 10 years ago to come up with solutions to address the disproportionately high number of prisoners in the state that hail from New Haven. She said DeStefano failed to take responsibility for that problem then, and is now declaring that the city’s violence “is a re-entry problem,” with 25 people returning from prisons to New Haven each week.

She accused DeStefano of pinning the re-entry problem on the state instead of taking initiative at the city level.

“We need leadership that has the courage to look upstream and to find out why the bodies are floating down the river,” Harp said. “We need local policies that will stop the killings now.”

Harp said New Haven needs leadership that is “open and fair.”

“Who among us has not worried that favoritism has kept our streets unpaved, snow unplowed, and our sidewalks broken and in disrepair?” Harp asked. “We need leadership we can trust in our city.”

Harp also said the city needs a leader “who understands that New Haven is a big tent with many different people from many different backgrounds, all of whom deserve a place at the decision-making table.”

“I wholeheartedly endorse Clifton Graves’ candidacy for mayor of the great city of New Haven,” she concluded. 

Asked what her support will mean for the campaign, Harp said the association may help some people who are “on the fence” decide whom to vote for. “Oftentimes if they know the person” who is endorsing a candidate, they may give that candidate a second look.

“I’m hoping that people who support me will support Clifton Graves. I think he’ll be a great leader for the city,” she said.

Harp said she’s willing to go further to show her support: “If he asks me to, I’ll go door-to-door with him.”

After the endorsement, Graves said he will take her up on that offer.

“We’re going to walk together,” Graves said. He called Harp one of the most respected African-American legislators in the state, and a high vote-getter to boot. Associating himself with her may encourage voters to give his campaign a more serious look, he said. He said he hoped to use her endorsement on flyers or other advertising “to help boost our campaign in the last couple of weeks” before the primary.

Reached after the event, DeStefano spokesman Danny Kedem defended the mayor’s record this way:

“The Mayor believes that the best way to keep our families safe is to give our kids a real opportunity to attend college. It starts with the city’s universal pre-K, world class school facilities, and a scholarship program that allows for every child to earn free tuition for college.

“Crime is a real problem in the city. The overwhelming majority of violent crime is committed by or against people who came out of prison.  Giving the re-entry population opportunities to succeed is a priority for the Mayor. That is why he has committed an entire city department to helping provide housing, jobs, and emotional support to folks coming out of prison. This program is one of a kind in Connecticut. It is a positive investment that the city has made to help some of the most at-risk individuals. No other city in Connecticut takes on this responsibility.”

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posted by: POP on August 31, 2011  9:26am

Wow housing and jobs for repetitive criminals. What about the family’s that work three jobs just to put a roof and food to them lies all lies Desrefano. Wow.

posted by: OMG!!!! on August 31, 2011  9:49am

Wait—you mean that Toni Harp is supporting Wendell Harp’s latest candidate for mayor???

OMG—I never saw that coming!

Wake me when there is news.  Somehow this is good for Kerekes right?

Here’s my guess for the election results:

1. DeStefano
2. Dawson
3. Graves
4. Kerekes

How will NHI cover these results since they will be more than a bit surprising to readers on election night?

posted by: Some Guy on August 31, 2011  10:36am


If you look at the data, you will see that its not guaranteed. It’s more about providing opportunities rather than giving them things.

But on the other side, whenever any social support system tries to do anything to help anyone, people are always going to complain about it regardless, so whatever.

I find it really interesting that Harp mentions sidewalks. There’s nothing that Graves or anybody else (Johnny Boy included) will be able to do about that to fit everyone’s needs.

posted by: cityhall on August 31, 2011  11:03am

Why DID Harp just hand Kerekes more votes?  Ok now we have a failed upstart Graves being supported by $$$$ (Harps) we have Dawson the decent but not issue candidate taking Graves votes away and the only viable issue based candidate is Kerekes.  Never put it past Wendell he’s setting up Graves and throwing votes to Jeff Kerekes.  Now this race get’s exciting!!! Inside City Hall blame is going around, the big question is HOW to re-purchase Wendell?  Is it to late this time John?

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on August 31, 2011  11:38am

This mayoral campaign denotes the same results in Mayor DeStefano.  Or a completely new and inclusive direction in Attorney Clifton Graves.  PLAIN AND SIMPLE!! 

This endorsement of Clifton Graves by Sen. Harp speaks volumes. In that, true she does have a huge respectable standing in the black community as the paper so aptly referenced, but her standing is also well respected in the white community as well.

Every re-election cycle the Mayor introduces his laundry list of platitudes, with the hope that voters are stupid enough to stand in line and purchase them. It is my hope that this time around, voters in New Haven will finally experience an epiphany and usher in new vision for the city, in that of Clifton Graves.

Pivoting, Sen. Tony Harp, Wendell Harp and Ray Harp personify not just positive leadership in the city, but true servants of Jesus Christ.  Which matters more to Wendell then any monetary or political accomplishment.  Are they perfect? No! Are you?

For those who may construe the Harps’ as being bitter towards the Mayor, that petty argument doesn’t bode well in describing them at all.  Conversely, the Harps’ have an unmatched affinity towards New Haven, and like many who live there, find it hard to sit idly by and watch the future of a beautiful city plummet.

The Harps’ invest not just their time/physical labor to the well being of the city, but they also invest their treasure, and that too speaks volumes. 

The argument is simple, if you are dismayed and or totally ashamed to tell people that you live in a particular county or city, then that simply means that the leadership has failed.

Keep in mind people, if the city was ranked fourth in the nation as being one of the best cities in which to live, the Mayor would take ALL of the credit for that standing.  So if you (Mayor) can take the credit for the positive, then you have to take the blame for the negative.

posted by: A Race About Race on August 31, 2011  11:43am

Sadly, this election is turning into a race about race.  And one race feels that by electing someone of their race that the streets will be safer.  Come on!  Do those supporters of a certain race who attended this meeting really think that Graves will be any better than any of the other candidates?  The reality is that the same people who aren’t parenting their children that are out shooting up other kids probably aren’t showing up to the poles and probably aren’t going to start parenting just because someone of their race is their Mayor.

What I want to know if how exactly Graves will carve out a big piece of the mangled budget to address the issues by finding cash for better after school programs for kids of every race!?

posted by: brutus2011 on August 31, 2011  11:54am

It is a constant source of amazement to me that we could continue to be deceived by a mayor, and his appointees, who purports to have our interests at heart.

By a mayor who puts ads on TV that showcase our children and how he has not forgotten who he works for. This from a person who publicly refers to us as those who “lead limited lives!”

Disenfranchised people of New Haven, if we elect this person again, then we deserve whatever we get…more of the same.

At this point, I don’t care who replaces this administration…as long as it is gone.

posted by: New Vision on August 31, 2011  12:37pm

As many have said during endorsement, Attorney Clifton Graves is the only one who has put out a comprehensive plan, not sound bites and taglines, but a plan that includes all members of the community.  It can be found here:  http://www.cliftongravesmayor.com/Issues.html
Agree or disagree but its there to be read.

posted by: robn on August 31, 2011  12:50pm

If you want your sidewalk repaired you have to request it from the city and pay 50% of the cost (by law). If you don’t want to do that, tough luck.

posted by: ignoranceisbliss on August 31, 2011  2:52pm

Brian Jenkins,

“...true servants of Jesus Christ.” !!!!?

Well heck I’ve got a Governor of Texas running for President by the name of Rick Perry I’d bet they’d love to meet!

posted by: Best Hats! on August 31, 2011  3:32pm

Carrie Saxon Perry and Clifton Graves have the best hats of any candidates for office in Connecticut in the last 30 years.

Of course they have the only hats worn consistently by any candidates for office in Connecticut in 30 years.  If this were Texas, they’d have competition, but not here in Connecticut!

So vote for hats.

Kerekes—no hat!
DeStefano—no hat!
Dawson—deceptive—he used to wear a hat on the job—but now no hat!!
Graves—he has a hat!

When will we get serious and cover the real things that matter—like HATS!!!

For Graves to win he has to go all in with a hat.  You have to admit, he pretty much has the smallest hat possible.  Sure a yarmulke is smaller but that’s not a hat.  I think it is technically a skull cap.

So Graves, this is your chance.  You should go all Carrie Saxon Perry on DeStefano and crew.  You need a real hat . . . a real BIG HAT! 

Look at the love that former mayor Perry is giving brother Kevin Ewing.  Why do you think that is?  It’s his hat.  The only one in attendance that approaches her big green Seuss like hat.

Sorry Kevin but you can’t be Mayor because you will be wearing the same hat tomorrow but not Mayor Perry—she’s got a slew o’ hats.  You need a hat like this one:

So get with the program Graves.  And you can even “buy New Haven” since there are several good New Haven hat stores.  Ask Perry, I betcha she could point you in the right direction.

You should try one of these hats:



Forget endorsements! Get HATS!!

Was this article trying to make some other point?  I read it twice, and I am sure it was about hats. 


posted by: Hats, Part Deux on August 31, 2011  3:49pm

I assumed wrongly that Mr. Graves wore a kufi, kofia, or whatever term you would like to use for the type of hat that he always wears because he is an observant Muslim. I just finally checked into it, and, apparently, he’s not Muslim. Now, knowing that, I think his kufis are just plain silly.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 31, 2011  4:23pm

posted by: Best Hats! on August 31, 2011 3:32pm

Forget endorsements! Get HATS!!

Was this article trying to make some other point?  I read it twice, and I am sure it was about hats.


He does have a hat on,It is a African Hat.


posted by: Cedarhillresident on August 31, 2011  4:23pm

@Best Hats!

OMG I to am now having to go get a hat! :) Fantastic post. Great break from the spam.

posted by: robn on August 31, 2011  7:24pm

Hats….Did anyone tell the attendees that the royal wedding was held several months ago?

posted by: Observer on August 31, 2011  7:38pm

So it seems the standard answer from Johnny D’s office these days is to tout the New Haven Promise.  Let me remind everyone that this is all it is at this point—a promise!  No one has been awarded a scholarship, the real promise he should have kept was to make sure these kids were educated and he never did that.  Never held anyone accountable for the poor performance of the Public schools.  Why?  Becuase he did not plan to be here when it came time to bear the consequences of his decisions.  But here he is.  Let’s just get rid of him in 2011.  We’ll figure out how to make City Hall better afterwards—if he is re-elected we are all morons and deserve whatever new disaster he causes.

posted by: Edward Francis on August 31, 2011  8:03pm

Harp emphasized the need for transparency and for answers to the violence plaguing the city, which has seen 23 homicides so far this year.

“We need leadership that has the courage to look upstream and to find out why the bodies are floating down the river,” Harp said.

Same old rhetoric - everyone knows why violence is plaquing the city year after year. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out or a candidate for Mayor either.

posted by: Kevin Ewing on August 31, 2011  9:14pm

@Best Hats!:  You joke Mayor Perry in that photo was asking me where she can get a hat like mine. I sent her to Blue Nile on Chapel. That’s where I get mine.

Vive le chapeau! Vive la révolution!

posted by: Best Hats! on September 1, 2011  12:47am

I am so glad that everyone now sees this article for what it is: an article on HATS!

Some responses to the hat lovers:

@Hats Part Deux: Like you I thought originally that Mr. Graves’ hat was religious but learned from the excellent NHI hat reporting (and where else can you get good hat reporting these days) that it was not.  Instead it’s more of a cultural awakening type hat.  I don’t think I would agree that kufis are silly.  I just think that Mr. Graves hat is BORING.  It’s colorless, small and confusing.  A hat should be strong, and it should be saying something that we can all agree it is saying.  Take Mayor Perry . . . her hat says LOOK AT ME!!!  Graves’ hat kind of says “maybe you should ask me why I’m wearing this hat.”

@three-fifths: Thank you for providing a link to kufi caps that stand out, have some color and don’t confuse. No one’s gonna think that lady mannequin is in some religious group but be too insecure to ask which one.  Instead, they’re gonna think NICE HAT and some cultural identification to boot.

@CedarHill: Thanks! Unfortunately, usually when you get email about hats, it actually is SPAM.

@robn: New Haven hat wearers got it all over the royals.  Royals wear hats to fit a stereotype.  Here in New Haven, our people wear hats to break the mold.  HATS! HATS! HATS!

@Observer: Please pay attention.  This article and thread are now about HATS! And we already established that John DeStefano does NOT WEAR HATS!  Don’t thread-jack, it’s not nice and it’s something I’d never do ;-)

@Kevin Ewing: One Che Guevera special hat for you.  Nice shout out to Blue Nile—I find great holiday gifts there.  And plenty of nice HATS! HATS! HATS!  Here’s your revolutionary hat:

One other thing. Is it just me or is Toni Harp looking at Graves’ hat in the top photo?

posted by: POP on September 1, 2011  7:10am


posted by: FANTASTIC!!!! on September 1, 2011  8:47am

SEPTEMBER 13TH—Hats on for GRAVES !!! Let’s make it REAL.

posted by: Hats, The Trilogy on September 1, 2011  11:53am

@ Best Hats!: You made my morning! Your tongue-in-cheek approach to the whole hat thing had me smirking and trying to hold back appreciative giggles to avoid detection while at work.

I wonder if I wear a hat to work tomorrow if I will be asked to remove it? I have some great floppy ones that would definitely trump the bland kufi.

All hail hats!

posted by: @ POP on September 1, 2011  5:37pm

Well said

posted by: Chris Gray on September 5, 2011  11:37am

With one minor revision (originally mistakenly called stammering stuttering), I wrote this report on Cedarhillresident’s Facebook page on Thursday afternoon after an unkind remark there by Brian McGrath.

“Just back from Dr. Clifton Graves speaking to a quite small group in the lobby of Bella Vista’s community room (Wii bowling took the large room.) He mumbled and stammered through gentlemanly credit for everyone else’s ideas (including John’s & Richard’s) And had his audience applaud themselves. People complained after about lousy refreshments.

“He fared much better at my hands (we even shook them & he remembered us at WYBC) than Tony, who had he & Bob McComack stopping folk to talk one day at lunchtime. I wouldn’t rather loudly. Bob couldn’t remember me (we were at WYBC for years together) but Tony recalled me from years of putting him on CTV.

“I told Jeffrey’s people that seeing me with them would do more to hurt them than to help. Wouldn’t you agree, Wrath McGrath?”

I did notice a Toni Harp sign prominently displayed so I figured that she endorsed him.  I put posters up for her when she ran in the 2nd Ward for Alder in her first race as a cross endorsed Democrat and Green Party member.  She dropped that membership upon election but I still did video for her BOA meetings and am confident that she would recall that.