Harp Files; Holder-Winfield Hangs In

A leading female candidate signed official papers to run for mayor Monday, vowing to bring a “consensus” style to City Hall that differs from a male “authoritarian” approach.

The candidate, state Sen. Toni Harp, became the sixth Democrat to file to run in the Sept. 10 Democratic Party primary. She’s looking to succeed retiring two-decade incumbent Mayor John DeStefano.

A seventh candidate, Kermit Carolina, announced Sunday night that he, too, will file official papers this week to run.

Harp, who was the leading candidate in a private labor-commissioned mayoral poll taken last year before DeStefano announced his retirement, becomes the first female candidate with citywide name recognition, major fundraising potential, and a potential vote-pulling operation to seek the city’s highest office. All 49 of New Haven’s mayors have been male.

That matters, Harp said as she filed her campaign paperwork in the city clerk’s office at 200 Orange St.

“I think that it is really great that a woman is finally run for mayor. We’ve waited a long while” said Harp, who was accompanied by her son Matthew and her campaign treasurer Hilda Kilpatrick, a retired city police detective.

Harp was asked if gender affects how a mayor governs.

“I think I would govern differently,” she replied. “I think oftentimes men area little more autocratic and top-down. I believe I’m a consensus builder. I would be trying to build consensus as opposed to being an authoritarian.”

Paul Bass PhotoShe also played up her experience: five years as a city alderwoman, then 21 years as a state senator. “I have more experience than anyone running,” she said. “I know how to get things passed” in Hartford.

She highlighted community policing as a central campaign issue. She noted that she had pushed for its adoption when the city first rolled it out in the early 1990s. “Unfortunately, when I left the local legislative branch, the Board of Aldermen, there wasn’t as much commitment to it” either at the legislative or executive levels, she said. “Things deteriorated. They’re beginning to build back up. I think we have to do more in order to make things safe.”

Harp said she hopes to raise “at least $300,000” and as much as “$500,000” in her mayoral campaign. She, Henry Fernandez and Matthew Nemerson have chosen not to participate in the city’s public-financing Democracy Fund, under which candidates agree to limit individual contributions to $370 (rather than $1,000) and to forswear donations from outside committees in return for matching government dollars. Four other mayoral candidates—state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, Alderman Justin Elicker, plumber Sundiata Keitazulu and Hillhouse High School Principal Kermit Carolina—have committed to running under the program.

Field Stays At 7

Meanwhile, Holder-Winfield, who has already filed to run for mayor, said Monday he has decided to stay in the race despite Harp’s surprise entrance.

Harp’s announcement of her candidacy last Monday led Holder-Winfield to spend some time “reassessing” if it still made sense to run. He completed that assessment this weekend, he said. He also went out on a canvas and attended an East Shore candidate meet-and-great event.

“I’ve done with reassessment based on what happened last Monday,” he said. “I don’t think anything new is going to happen in the next weeks. We’ll have a very crowded field.”

Carolina: Yes, I’m Running Clean

Candidate Carolina issued a release Monday to clarify that he is still completely on board with participating in the Democracy Fund. He had previously made that clear when he announced his “exploratory” campaign committee. After an article appeared in the Independent last night about his decision to file officially as a candidate, readers asked if he still intends to run in the public-financing system.

“I am a strong proponent of what the Democracy Fund represents, and I encourage the citizens of New Haven who are unaware of the spirit of the ordinance to learn more about it,” Carolina stated in the release. You can do so by going to this link.”

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posted by: Curious on April 29, 2013  1:24pm

So if four out of seven candidates are participating in the Democracy Fund, isn’t that a consensus, candidate Harp?  :)

posted by: Noteworthy on April 29, 2013  1:25pm

What does “consensus” mean to Harp? That she listens and acts? When she voted for all the tax increases over the years - especially the one from a couple of years ago that set a record, did she listen to people? Or just those in Hartford? When she raised the sales tax? Expanded the sales tax? Increased the cost of a driver’s license? Borrowed billions to pay corporations for jobs nobody in New Haven will ever get? Has she been listening on the car tax? I think Harp has been very good at building consensus among elected officials of her own party. The public has been largely if not completely ignored.

I look forward to how she will now define consensus as it relates to New Haven’s needs. Her platform choice of community policing is a bit curious - we have it. Why would you run on it as an issue? DeStefano’s hand was forced on this issue in the last election. She says we can do more? The police department is the second largest line item in the budget - we are budgeted at a force level well above the national average. Do more?

Harp will count on all those lobbyists and special interests from Hartford to fund her campaign. Donors from all those interests get a free pass in local elections. Are we surprised this was the one area of campaign finance 21 years in Hartford didn’t touch?

posted by: Curious on April 29, 2013  1:29pm

Wait, so Harp is entitled to say that her candidacy is different and somehow better because she is a woman, and all our past mayors have been men?

She’s not willing to concede though, that clean elections are important a distinction worthy of influencing one’s vote?

That’s nothing less than sexist.

posted by: HhE on April 29, 2013  1:45pm

I am all for consensus over diktat.  That said, well said, Curious and Noteworthy.

posted by: robn on April 29, 2013  2:01pm

What I find amazing is that Sen Harp feels she even needs large donors if she has, as many presume, the backing of Bob Protos steamroller union propaganda and GOTV machine. Without losing advantage, she could have very easily done Democracy Fund and possibly humiliated Henry Fernandez into doing so (gaining advantage). Weird.

posted by: EdgewoodMom on April 29, 2013  2:16pm

I know I am in the minority here, but I actually LIKE it when a candidate has the ability to raise their own money to spend on a campaign rather than use tax payer dollars. New Haven is hurting enough financially. And, it does not mean they will run a cleaner campaign (see: Ernie Newton). Just my opinion…regulars attack it if you would like.

posted by: Curious on April 29, 2013  2:29pm

Robn, my exact thinking when she trotted out that nonsense about not participating in clean elections. 

If Harp has all this name recognition and all these great accomplishments, why does she need secret funding from hidden backers to beat a city alderman and a junior senator who are both running clean campaigns on public money?

Maybe some organization in New Haven, maybe a Yale student group, can host a debate or three that only invites clean election candidates.  Let these others be visible in their absence.

Wait I love this idea.  Why doesn’t the Democracy Fund itself host a debate about the importance of financial transparency in running the city?  Or maybe Yale political science or school of management can host it.  Elicker is SoM, isn’t he?  How about a high-profile good governance debate, only open to the clean elections candidates?

posted by: momnprof on April 29, 2013  2:43pm

Like another commenter, I don’t really care about the Democracy Fund.  I mean it’s a nice principle and all, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to pay my races, reduce crime in this city or educate children.  Enough about the fun already.  Can we talk SUBSTANCE about what each of these candidates plans to do about the problems plaguing this city and what they are going to do about them?

posted by: Curious on April 29, 2013  2:44pm

Fairhavengal, I think that’s great, too.

Take Nemerson for example.  He clearly his the ability to raise money and not take public funds.  However, he’s bundling checks and cash and thereby hiding who the money is coming from, and that’s NOT okay.

We’re not against candidates raising their own campaign funds, we’re against raising funds without identifying who those funds are coming from.

I’m sure the Police Department could sell confiscated drugs and boost their budget that way, big-time.  I doubt many people would support that, though.  If they did it on the sly, though, with no one ever knowing, does that make it okay?

posted by: EdgewoodMom on April 29, 2013  3:09pm

Yet again for me, I do not mind reading campaign finance reports and gleaning basic information from them. To me, issues like blight, policing, taxes, et cetera are MUCH more important than who took money from the city to run a campaign. And, yet again for me, I would rather that they have the base to raise their own money than to use money that could go to other city projects or funds or, I don’t know, keeping the mill rate lower. JMO.

posted by: Babz Rawls Ivy on April 29, 2013  3:35pm

I think the Democracy Fund idea is charming, however, holding people to it as some sort of holier-than-thou mark is ridiculous and doesn’t speak to honor or character or anything. We can and should hold candidates to “clean” campaigns…which requires citizens to do their due diligence and pay attention, ask question and stay on top of where money comes from and goes. 

But you see that requires more citizen commitment than most are willing to do.  So many folks like the Democracy fund concept because it gives them a false sense of transparency. 

Say whatever you want.  I for one want to see Senator Harp raise money and LOTS OF IT! I like her.  I love that a woman of her caliber is running.  I love that a woman who has achieved academically, raised very successful children, had a very successful marriage, served in elected office, maintained a professional career and now wants to steer this great city is phenomenal!

This is the kind of candidate that we WANT! This is the kind of candidate we dream of. This is the candidate we NEED! Honorable. Accessible. Polished. Strong. Kind. Smart. Hard working. Respected. Respectful.

Hang your hats on the democracy fund all you want… that train has left the station.  Talk amongst yourselves about it… use that if you will as your make or break stance. It is small and inconsequential.

posted by: Curious on April 29, 2013  3:38pm

Those issues are all important, but please hear me out and answer me this…

If someone bundles a ton of campaign contributions for a candidate and then ends up being that mayor’s Superintendent of Schools…isn’t that a problem?

If someone collects a ton of cash for a candidate and then ends up getting preferential treatment for contracts to build developments and schools…isn’t that a problem?

If someone raises a bunch of money for a candidate and then ends up being appointed to run the Livable City Initiative, isn’t that a problem?

These are all ways that improper campaign finance can not only rig a election, but rig the way the city is run for years to come. 

Campaign financing that isn’t 100% transparent allows the city to continue to be a pay-to-play environment where the people making day to day decisions about how to deal with the blight, the crime, the policing policies, the school system, the tax base, and the mill rate are ALL put in office by a mayor who OWES THEM for raising campaign funds and got their positions of power and influence NOT because they were the best candidate for the job, but because they paid in cash.  Because they bought their office.

I respect your opinion, but transparent campaign finance is at the root of making this city a great place.  All the issues you list are controlled by or impacted by people who should be the best person for those jobs, and not the person who raised the most money under the table to get the new mayor elected.

posted by: Razzie on April 29, 2013  3:41pm

Personally, I’m more offended by those candidates who are doing a Lieberman “2 bites of the apple” tactic than anything else. If you take public dollars to run in the primary, you shouldn’t be allowed to turn around and solicit private “dirty” money for the general election. That type of hypocrisy should be banned from the system. When Elicker pulls his stunt after the primary, is he going to still claim to be the Clean Elections candidate?

posted by: DownTownNewHaven on April 29, 2013  4:43pm

fairhavengal: Electing a publicly financed Mayor will save a lot more tax payer money then the cost of the democracy fund. If you look at the individuals who have donated $1000 to the Mayor historically it isn’t hard to see how much pay to play politics has cost the tax payers.

Razzie: I agree 100% Elicker’s “Lieberman two-step” with the “democracy fund fake out” while calling himself a clean elections candidate is outrageous.

posted by: stick21 on April 29, 2013  7:45pm

Whether a candidate is using the Democracy fund or not does not matter when it comes to who gets the pillow jobs, big donators with ties to construction companies and other contract jobs I will agree. But, on the mayoral team like the Superintendent and other positions candidates usually has those persons already in mind…Take a look into that long drawn out exploratory “campaign” and the silent partners lurking in the background!

posted by: Edward Francis on April 29, 2013  9:01pm

“I think that it is really great that a woman is finally running for mayor. We’ve waited a long while” said Harp.

She is not the first women to run for mayor in New Haven.  I don’t remember the woman’s name, possibly a republican candidate, who I believe opposed Mayor R.C. Lee some years ago. Can someone out there help with her name?

posted by: FrontStreet on April 29, 2013  9:06pm

Still no word on how Sen Harp can explain how she earned a salary from an organization (Hill Health) that she had power to appropriate money as head of the appropriations commitee. Yes, Senator Harp has also been an employee of Hill Health for more than a decade.  During which time Hill Health recieved several generous bonds from the state for capitol improvements.  If that’s not old school conflict of interest, I don’t know what is.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on April 29, 2013  9:23pm

Too many of the mentors here who are against the use of the Democracy Fund as a campaign issue are trying to insist that those who are for it simply stop talking/writing about it. 

That’s no way to win an argument if you’re trying to convince rational, sane, and intelligent people to join your side.

It is also less than convincing if you argue that a matter completely related to the Fund is “more important” than consideration of whether or not one uses the Fund.  As one has little to do with the other, why can’t I consider them both?

In THIS forum, the Non-Democracy Fund supporters are handily losing the debate.

posted by: HhE on April 29, 2013  9:49pm

Long before my time, Edward Francis, but I remember a woman, but not her name that sought the democratic nomination about ten years ago.

posted by: FrontStreet on April 29, 2013  10:23pm

From The Connecticut Mirror:

“Harp reported outside income from the Hill Health Center, which received $378,000 in state funds in 2008, including $121,000 for homeless health services, according to her disclosure form. In 2006, she raised eyebrows by issuing a press release touting a $6.2 million state grant for her employer.”

No stranger to conflicts of interest, it seems. More politics and conflict of interest, New Haven style.

posted by: Noteworthy on April 29, 2013  10:32pm

Razzie and FairHavengal:

The hypocrisy of supporting the Democracy Fund and its principles and then running for the top slot evading it is a grave problem. It’s the old John Kerry “I was for it before I was against it.” What is needed is integrity and consistency of principle. As for running in the general, having backed one candidate who did, it is a requirement of running in New Haven with its troubled history of democracy.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on April 29, 2013  11:14pm

Toni would be committing political suicide if she were to participate in the Democracy Fund. 

Both Henry and Matt have opted to forgo the Democracy Fund, thus enabling them to spread their propaganda citywide (often) as opposed to being reduced to just a few wards.

It’s senseless for Toni to volunteer to put handcuffs on her campaign by participating.

She’s going to kick their butts all across the city and she should.

The problems in the city are monumental, so why should the most qualified candidate volunteer to be outspent 10 to 1?

posted by: Tom Burns on April 30, 2013  3:27am

This is really exciting—unprecedented probably—so many candidates vying for the position—and all of them have guts—and many of them have ability and purpose—who cares about the ancillary stuff—unless those who have posted here already support a certain candidate—that’s why they bring up issues that really don’t matter—I say just support your candidate for what they believe in—I am interested in hearing their positions on everything—although I am not a city resident—I am a teacher and the VP of Local 933—-and by the way, never has this union given money to any candidate—for we can’t, even if we wanted to—so for those posters who say a certain candidate has union backing—well not the teachers union—never—-but of course we will be watching—Tom

posted by: HhE on April 30, 2013  8:59am

For some voters, the Democracy Fund is a non issue.  Okay.

For some voters, the Democracy Fund is the litmus test.  Okay.

For some voters, the Democracy Fund and related issues of campaign funds is an issue.  Okay. 

I happen to belong to the third group.  I would have no problem with “I am not participating in the Democracy Fund because the city of New Haven is already financially strapped, and I do not think it is right to compel tax payers to fund a political campaign that may well be at odds with their views.”  Indeed, I would be very sympathetic to such an argument- an argument that posters here have made. 

However, none of the candidates eschewing the Democracy Fund had made that claim.  They have said I need more money, I am coming in late, and/or the paper work is too hard.

posted by: Curious on April 30, 2013  10:07am

Toni Harp took public funds in 2008 as part of her Senate run.

I found this while looking to see how much money she makes as a director at Hill Health.  Check it out.

Embracing public financing and taking public money in 2008 and forsaking it now? Interesting.

I’d like to see how the people who were slamming the use of public funds over private fundraising defend this.


In 2008, Harp collected $103,894 in donations.[6]
His (sic) five largest contributors in 2008 were:
Donor   Amount
Public Fund   $84,603
New Haven Public Schools   $280
Democrats for Victory 92nd   $150
James Lawlor   $150
David Carter, Sr.    $100


“Connecticut’s public campaign financing program is funded through the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP). This program provides grant money to candidates who raise a specified number of low-sum, “qualifying contributions” and who agree to abide by spending limits.”



posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on April 30, 2013  10:50am

Ohhhh, Brain L. Jenkins virtually delivers a knock-out punch in favor of NOT using the Democracy Fund.

Any rejoinders?

posted by: Carl Goldfield on April 30, 2013  11:04am

Former Alderwoman, Ann Piscitelli, ran as a Republican against John DeStefano- can’t remember exactly when but I believe it was the mid or late 90’s.

posted by: Curious on April 30, 2013  12:04pm

Samuel T. Ross-Lee, I think Brian L. Jenkins’ post perfectly describes WHY everyone should be participating in the Democracy Fund.

If money is the only way to win, which he clearly concedes here, then we’re not getting the best mayor by collecting hidden funds…we’re getting the mayor who can pull the most strongs and collect the most money under the table.

posted by: robn on April 30, 2013  12:18pm


Sorry but the relvancy of the Democracy Fund will never go away. Its exists for a reason; the same reason why there was a long running series of news articles titled “City For Sale”. Citizens are sick and tired of big money politics driving our government. Harp, Fernandez and Nemerson’s Opt-Out symbolizes the old guard and fear of a level playing field.

posted by: Curious on April 30, 2013  12:34pm

Samuel T. Ross-Lee, Toni Harp also took $83k of public fund money in 2008, but either my comment on that hasn’t been published yet, or NHI isn’t posting that one, either. 

It seems that creating a fun and friendly comments section means that you have to allow people to get away with saying whatever they want with no accountability at all.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on April 30, 2013  1:46pm


The strength of Jenkins’ argument is not “Fund or No Fund” as an abstract principle, but it’s “If my opponent can outspend me by not using the fund, then I won’t be able to get my message out if I do use it.” 

And given that your argument (even though I lean towards using the Fund) does not hold the weight of inherency that you seem to think it does, Jenkins’ argument is essential a pre-response to yours, saying, in effect the best candidate can lose if they can’t compete financially with lesser candidates who happen to be well funded.  Said another way: The best fund raiser can ALSO be the best candidate - though fund raising ability alone neither proves nor disproves that fact.

And, isn’t the REAL issue here what will become of the relationship between the winning candidate and the donors?  Can we simply conclude that each candidate who receives private money will automatically give favors to donors just because that has been the behavior in the past with another Mayor? Do we have specific evidence of that opinion with these candidates?  Or are we merely going in to protection mode - not necessarily a bad thing to do, but I’m just asking - because of the mores of past elections and office-holders?

Robn has come closes to answering the above questions in her/his recent comment – symbolism can be a powerful thing - but I’m still curious(?) (pun intended) as to how her/his comment is applied to specific candidates, and if there exist specific evidence that the non-fund candidates have participated in “turning the government” over to big money donors at the expense of the general public.

Personal Request: If people are not going to ID yourselves with real names, could you AT LEAST reveal your genders, so I don’t have to keep referring to you as “her/his” when forced to use the 3rd Person. I would appreciate it.

posted by: robn on April 30, 2013  2:33pm


I can’t reveal my gender because I’d half my chances for a date on Saturday night.

posted by: Razzie on April 30, 2013  3:25pm

@Robn to @STR
I can’t reveal my gender because I’d half my chances for a date on Saturday night.

Not necessarily.

posted by: Curious on May 1, 2013  10:06am

Samuel T. Ross-Lee, I am Mr. Curious, thank you :)

As to your questions, I have an absolutely perfect example of why not running clean elections compromises city government, but Paul Bass is not allowing me to post it.

Do some Google research on the people commenting on this thread, and you will probably figure it out.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on May 1, 2013  1:09pm

Mr. Curious:

E-mail me: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The names you’re talking about.

posted by: GoodNatured on May 3, 2013  11:39am

Carolina is a strong and persuasive defender of the Democracy Fund. 

I am very glad to see him, as a man of principle, join the race.

As for those who can’t be bothered with the Democracy Fund - no thanks. We need clean elections to get a clean government for New Haven. This city has been bought out by favorites and special interests for too long.