Holder-Winfield Eyes Harp’s Senate Seat

Thomas MacMillan PhotoJust when you thought the campaign season had ended, jockeying has begun for an expected upcoming special election—for state Senate.

To be specific, the special-election campaign for the soon-to-open 10th State Senate District has begun. Not officially. But unofficially.

Toni Harp said in an interview Wednesday that she plans to resign from Senate seat as of Jan. 2 as she begins her official duties as New Haven’s 50th mayor. She won the mayor’s job Tuesday in an election that capped nearly a year of spirited campaigning.

Harp has held the 10th Senate District seat—which represents half of New Haven and a sliver of West Haven—since 1993. As co-chair of the legislature’s powerful Appropriations Committee, she has been responsible for sending millions of dollars to the city and defending numerous social programs against budget cuts. Her departure appears likely diminish the city’s clout in Hartford (although her election as mayor arguably increases City Hall’s influence there).

At least one prominent Democrat, state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, has already decided to run to replace her in the Senate, assuming the resignation takes place as planned and the seat opens up.

Other Democrats known to be considering runs are Democratic Town Chairwoman Jackie James and former Edgewood Alderman Marcus Paca. Two state representatives, Toni Walker and Juan Candelaria, have also been mentioned as possible candidates, though they have not at this point encouraged the speculation or made moves to run.

Under state law, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will have 10 days to issue a “writ of special election” following the effective date of Harp’s resignation, according to secretary of the state spokesman Av Harris. The special election will then take place 46 days after the issuance of that writ. Governors tend to issue the writs on Fridays so the elections can take place on Tuesday.

The 10th District Democratic committee that nominated Harp for her seat in the most recent election—whose makeup is similar to that of the Democratic Town Committee—then meets to nominate a new party candidate for the special election.

“My intention is, upon the seat becoming available, I will be running for it,” Holder-Winfield told the Independent Wednesday. As a state representative, Holder-WInfield has taken a leading role in legislation to abolish the death penalty, promote school reform, and limit racial profiling. He ran for mayor earlier this year, then dropped out and endorsed Harp’s candidacy before the Democratic primary.

He said he would seek the Democratic committee’s endorsement, then collect signatures to run as a petitioning candidate if he fails to receive it.

“I have a lot of experience over the five years that I’ve been [in the state House] that I think will be good, particularly losing a senator with the experience that Toni has,” he said.

The state Senate has 36 members, the House, 151. Holder-Winfield said that as a member of a smaller body than the state House, a senator has a greater “ability to make things happen.”

That might not be as true for state Rep. Walker if she were to decide to run. That’s because Walker has risen to one of the state House’s top positions: co-chair, along with Toni Harp, of the powerful Appropriations Committee. So she’s not leaping into the upcoming race for Harp’s seat.

“I’m very concerned I’d be giving up a very powerful position. Whoever takes [Harp’s] place would not start at the top, either. That would weaken New Haven,” Walker said.

That said, she left her options open: “I need to talk to my colleagues. We’re a team.”

State Rep. Juan Candelaria and Town Chair James sounded similar notes of hesitation without ruling out runs.

“I feel comfortable in the House right now. I’ve been here for 11 years now. I’m part of leadership,” said Candelaria, who serves as deputy majority leader. “Moving over [to the Senate] would be like starting over.”

Melissa Bailey Photo“I haven’t made a decision. There are other folks I have to talk to who may be interested,” James (pictured with Harp mayoral campaign manager Jason Bartlett at an Anchor Restaurant fundraiser) said Wednesday. “It’s about building a team. I don’t think it’s a decision I should make on my own. The most responsible thing is to leave the door open to who we as a city can support. It’s important to get someone in there who can do consensus-building and do great legislation.”

Paul Bass PhotoAsked about his plans for a potential candidacy, Paca (pictured at Harp headquarters Wednesday) said he hasn’t made a decision yet: “I’m thinking about it.” Paca served on the Board of Aldermen in Edgewood’s Ward 24 for one term, before being ousted by challenger Evette Hamilton in 2011. After his defeat, he has remained active in the neighborhood: Through the Greater Dwight Development Corporation, Paca has worked on bringing a new gas station to Stop & Shop Plaza.

Mayor-Elect Harp said Wednesday she is not at this point endorsing anyone. She said she wants to see how the field develops.

She did offer encouraging words for Holder-Winfield.

“Certainly Gary has the experience to take over where I left off,” she said.

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posted by: robn on November 6, 2013  5:44pm


Even jaded old me thought GHW would let the corpse of this mayoral election grow cold before staking claim on Toni’s seat.

posted by: westvilleresident on November 6, 2013  5:49pm

What a surprise.
Don’t worry, Gary, I’m sure Toni Walker will stay out of it. Just keep your eyes on the skies for those freak lightening strikes.

posted by: ConcernedWestvillecitizen on November 6, 2013  5:52pm

Hmmmmmm!  I wonder what Sergio might do! Has anyone heard whether he is interested?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 6, 2013  5:53pm

Mayor-Elect Harp said Wednesday she is not at this point endorsing anyone. She said she wants to see how the field develops.
She did offer encouraging words for Holder-Winfield.“Certainly Gary has the experience to take over where I left off,” she said.

Mainstream politics Are just backroom deals/under the table deals. This was in the mix from day one.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 6, 2013  9:42pm

The real question is who Gwen Mills and Bobby Proto will select to fill the vacancy, as clearly they run this town….

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on November 6, 2013  10:23pm

I’m excited to see GHW enter the race and make his intention known.  He is a great candidate who has taken the lead on many issues in the house.  Though not a parrot, mayor-elect Harp is correct in that he can start up (almost) where she left off. 

GHW has shown himself to be a classy individual throughout this entire election cycle.  I hope that the voters give him a chance and see him for the independent, progressive candidate he is.

Mayor-elect Harp did the right thing by not acknowledging a candidate yet.  She certainly knows how a field can change instantly and many people she respects and admires may run for the position.  Regardless, I think most of the candidates mentioned would be good for the job.

posted by: Burbel on November 6, 2013  10:34pm

Holder-Winfield has by far the strongest case of those mentioned, including a track record of building consensus in the House and getting important legislation done.

He stands up to be counted and isn’t afraid of controversy when he believes something important is at stake. There’s not enough of that in the get-along to get-ahead club that most people in politics belong to.

And he’s not just another blowhard speaking in cliches and generalities. He is among the most knowledgeable and articulate people in public life anywhere in the state.

His intellect and passion are as clear and strong as they come, and he’s earned a reputation for integrity.

Holder-Winfield is a leader.

He’ll be a very effective force in the Senate on behalf of New Haven.

posted by: Bill Saunders on November 7, 2013  1:07am

And GHW would have made a great Mayor, unfortunately he jumped his place in THE LINE, and then the gamesmanship began…

posted by: obi on November 7, 2013  6:04am

Winfield, “He said he would seek the Democratic committee’s endorsement, then collect signatures to run as a petitioning candidate if he fails to receive it.”  I doubt seriously if you will be supported by Toni Harp. My suggestion is to start collecting signatures now.  Re: Jackie James, isn’t she part of reason the DNC info was mailed to Hartford and not taken by deadline the following day to Orange St.?  If so OMG!!!  The town talk is who the 10th District Democratic committee will nominate isn’t in above loop but will HAVE Toni’s support.. Thus duping Windfield a second time.  So much for quid pro quo. Will be extremely interesting to see how this plays out.

posted by: Citizen X on November 7, 2013  7:32am

Holder-Winfield will get my vote.

posted by: PeoplewholoveNewHavenshouldlead on November 7, 2013  7:53am

GHW is a fairly new comer to New haven. I question his ability to rise into leadership. The people of NH will need someone who can quickly strategize to become a part of leadership. Juan Candelaria was able to do so and so did Toni Walker! I’m not sure about GHW. Jackie James is incompetent! plain and simple! Look at the debacle her ineptness created when as the chair of the Democratic Party she failed to follow process and properly endorse Mayor elect Toni Harp. GHWs wife has said many times that New Haveners are mediocre! We need to take heed from Natalie’s critical words and send someone who is competent to represent the 10th district. We also need someone who fully respects New Haveners. I would NOT support GHW! Nor JJ in any bid at any time for this key seat. New Haven needs someone who full heartedly supports New Haven and understands it and all of the complexities of this urban Mecca. Let’s push a candidate who is competent, confident, and can lead without having idiotic family members offering insulting commentary.

posted by: woosterbill on November 7, 2013  8:30am

This is old news - it was obvious from the moment GHW dropped out of the mayoral race and immediately endorsed the woman who had endorsed him less than a week before.

Had GHW stayed in the race it would have been much less of a coronation for Harp - although Elicker would have lost my vote to Gary, I’m sure Gary would have significantly split the black vote that went overwhelmingly to Toni.

As much as I dislike backroom deals and horse trading like this, it’s hard to fault GHW for taking a sure promotion over a long shot at the mayoralty. I just hope that giving the race to Toni was enough of a favor that he won’t feel pressured to remain an establishment lapdog, but will continue with his brave, principled, and frankly amazing work on behalf of the powerless. I’m incredibly proud to have him as my state representative, and wish him only the best in what I hope will be a long and productive political career.

posted by: Noteworthy on November 7, 2013  9:01am

Zombie Notes:

There hasn’t even been a wake yet, and already, they’re lining up to date the widow and pilfer the inheritance.

That said, I wouldn’t vote for any of the people in this article. All of the elected ones voted to enhance the possibility of more corruption under the dome by significantly changing campaign finance reforms; passed multiple pieces of legislation in the middle of the night after drafting them in secret, violating their own vetting rules and attempting to mislead the public; and they all supported suppressing public information. That’s before we get to the state budget that was “balanced” by pilfering the reserve account, refusing to pay off short term debt tied to previous deficits and once again raised taxes - gas, corporate, hospital and others.

The others - they have lots of baggage. Let’s hope somebody emerges who doesn’t have the “experience” referred to in this article. It is highly overrated especially when they all vote as they’re told to do in their partisan only “consensus” building among the group thinkers.

posted by: State Sen. Gary Holder-Winfield on November 7, 2013  9:25am

Just two points.  One. I didn’t go seeking anything.  The press came and asked me the question.  Obviously I have thought about it people have been asking since I exited the race for mayor.  I am not going to pretend I will not be looking at the seat.  Two.  Believe as you might there was no deal.  I don’t do that. I would hope that the new mayor is supportive and will seek that when the time comes.

posted by: anonymous on November 7, 2013  11:17am

1. Didn’t Holder-Winfield also vote for Keno this year?  Keno was a behind closed door deal with no warning to city residents, in order to provide massive profits to the large publicly-traded corporations and contractors that then donated indirectly to Harp’s campaign.

2. To quote Gary and his campaign manager this past spring, on the Democracy Fund: “If you have contractors spending $1,000 a pop to buy the mayor, that guy won’t represent the average New Haven resident. Who signs onto the Democracy Fund is an indication of who will be supportive of the popular will of the people.”  To quote the YDN on April 2nd, “Both Elicker and Holder-Winfield have been adamant about the importance of public financing, emphasizing that candidates receiving special-interest money will be beholden to those interests as mayor. Holder-Winfield went as far as to lay out a Clean Campaign Pledge promising to participate in the Fund.”

We all know what happened next.

In many ways Gary is a model citizen, and he is on the right side of many issues that impact low-income residents.

But it is also clear that he does not yet have the guts to stand up for city residents on these critical issues that impact the inequality in our city.  Perhaps as a Senator, he would develop more of a backbone.

Gary has also been less than fully responsive to citizens who have met with him since he was first elected. While Gary could do a better job, I would like to see a more responsive representative as my State Senator.

Perhaps Kermit Carolina or Pat Dillon should consider a run.

posted by: Art Vandelay on November 7, 2013  1:31pm

And what Republican Candidates might be throwing their hats into the ring?  Let me guess!  NONE.  So much for the two party system in New Haven.

posted by: anonymous on November 7, 2013  1:39pm

Art - a Republican would have slim chances in this particular district, but I hope that there is someone out there who is willing to run far to the left of Holder-Winfield, given his positions on the items listed above.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on November 7, 2013  3:51pm

I wish that I could say that I was shocked by the vitriol thrown GHW’s way.  However, I am not.  I won’t blame it on race alone or his endorsement of Mayor-elect Harp but the two combined make an awfully strong case.  Then there are the comments about Mr. Lemar.  Really, there is such a blind hatred of all things connected to Senator and Mayor-elect Harp that it defies reason and logic. 

More distressingly, there is such a strong desire to tramp down on anyone who disagrees with the point of view of the Elicker supporters.  It does appear that for many of them all reason goes out the window.

The election should not have been so much about mayor but over the union’s ability to now control 1/2 of the school board.  Yes, the “inmates” now run the crazy house and it was because everyone was too busy paying attention to the least important issue.  And because of that, the City lost control over being able to effectively control the educational process.  Truly, I hope that people can start seeing the forest for the trees.

There is a disturbing trend on the NHI of anonymous individuals completing trashing our elected officials and engaging in name calling and smearing.  It is very easy to do it while anonymous, but it would have much more significance and relevance if people wanted to own their words.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 7, 2013  8:36pm

If gary wins who will run for his seat?

posted by: OneGod on November 7, 2013  9:59pm

Gary! Gary! Gary! Gary! There are a lot of strong candidates and those whom eye have high regards and respects for. Love you guys with a golden heart. Best thing to do (because you are strong) stand behind this good brother and help him get there! Gary is a good and honest human being who will do what’s right for our communities. It took a whole lot of love for him to drop out and support this great Beautiful Queen Warrior of a Mayor New Haven has just inherited. Together we stand! Divided we fall! New Haven is looking to stand.

Peace and Love: Baub OneGod Bidon

posted by: Bradley on November 8, 2013  6:32am

@ anonymous

“Far to the left of Holder-Winfield” ?  Do you mean someone who opposes the death penalty and supports gay marriage…..oh.

Seriously, while I suspect that residents of the district support the Democracy Fund,  how many think that public campaign finance is more important than jobs, good schools and dealing with crime?

@ peoplewholovenewhavenshould lead

Based on your statement, voters should have based their decision regarding Toni on her husband’s actions. Do you really believe this?

posted by: anonymous on November 8, 2013  9:55am


“Jobs, good schools and dealing with crime” are incredibly complex and interrelated issues requiring action on at least 100 different fronts.  You won’t find a single person who thinks they are not important.

Do you seriously think these issues can be addressed without having good government?  If so, you are likely to as deeply disappointed by the incoming administration as you are with the current one.  We are making exactly zero meaningful progress on these things.  Just look at the fact that our homicide rate over the past four years is 2.0 times higher than what it was during a similar four-year period at the beginning of the last decade here. Resources are here but they are being wasted, and lack of good government (including control by a few moneyed special interests and corporations) also means that most citizens are sitting on the sidelines, unable to get involved.

The constant drumbeat for “jobs safety youth,” coupled with press releases on feel-good initiatives with no reach, test scores, and monthly police incident reports that are next to meaningless, is high unproductive. We need elected officials who are willing to tackle the fundamental reasons why these issues are present.  DeStefano began to do this in some areas but did not go nearly far enough, and with the help of Looney/Harp, he also made some devastating mistakes, such as widening several highways and failing to stand up against cuts to bus systems, parks, tax credits, and low income services.  That’s why “jobs, youth and safety” aren’t good.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on November 8, 2013  1:12pm

good question…I bet sergio