Harp Backs State Party Purge

Paul Bass PhotoPrimary the disloyal Dems. And let the governor make the tough decisions.

That was Mayor Toni Harp’s latest message to her former colleagues in the state legislature.

On her latest appearance on WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday” program, Harp, a former state senator, endorsed a move by freshman Democratic State Rep. Joshua Elliott to support primary challenges to incumbent legislators of his own party who fail to commit to progressive positions.

And she supported a threatened veto by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of a bipartisan bill passed Monday to restore $54 million that had been cut in the current state budget to cover Medicare costs for 113,000 seniors and people with disabilities.

Elliott, a 33-year-old freshman legislator from Hamden, ruffled feathers by distributing a questionnaire to his colleagues with the aim of supporting challenges to those who don’t commit to a $15 minimum wage, paid family and medical leave, increased income taxes on millionaires, and legal marijuana, among other left-of-center provisions. The move drew criticism even from some liberal members of his party, who warned that the Democrats can’t risk losing seats in moderate or conservative districts and therefore risk losing control of the legislature. Elliott responded that the Democrats need to stand for a coherent progressive vision to which voters will respond.

Harp Monday sided with Elliott. She cited the defection this past session of a handful of conservative, suburban Democrats — who included Branford Rep. Lonnie Red and Milford Sen. Gayle Slossberg —  to help the Republicans pass their version of a budget and reject the Democratic budget. She also cited a vote on which those same Democrats voted with Republicans to change the state’s Affordable Housing Statute (and override a gubernatorial veto) — a change that immediately led to efforts in Milford to kill new affordable housing.

Yankee Institute for Public Policy“I would agree with” Elliott, Harp said. “It’s hard to do business when people in your own party see things differently than you do. I don’t want to target any one person. But the truth of the matter is these are people who don’t represent our values. Why should they be supported?”

Harp was asked about the argument that Democrats need to have a big enough “tent” to include people who diverge on some issues in order to govern.

She noted that the State Senate is currently evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. The Democrats have seen their majority in the State House shrink as well, to a narrow 79-72 tally.

“It doesn’t matter if there are enough [Democrats] to overcome” defections on major issues, Harp argued. “But when it is even, and you have four or five people who really are conservative and in any other world would be Republican, it creates a problem for the vision being implemented.”

She also criticized legislators who, only after the state budget was passed, decided to vote in a special session to restore the Medicare money. Gov. Malloy has criticized Monday’s vote as using the kind of budget gimmicks that have gotten the state in such deep fiscal trouble, such as double-counting expected revenues. (Legislators denied it.) He also noted that the cuts don’t take effect until July 1, so legislators should have waited until the new session beginning in February to find the money as part of a more thoughtful, honest approach.

“The conservative members of both parties ... made cuts without really knowing that it affects everybody, and not just people in urban areas,” Harp observed.

“There are some people who don’t care what happened to cities. They don’t care what happened to poor people. As long as they think they can make cuts and it just affects poor people, they do it. When they turn around and find out, ‘Oh! There are people in my town that are affected by this!’ they want to solve it right away.

“Why? Because they’re running for reelection! Give me a break.”

She argued for waiting until the regular session to address the cuts. In the meantime, she said, “I think the governor will do the right hting. The governor understands how important urban areas are to the state. The legislature doesn’t at this particular time.”

Click on or download the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to hear the full episode of “Mayor Monday” on WNHH FM. Topics covered include response to the snowstorm, priorities for the mayor’s third term, and the Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” campaign.

This episode of “Mayor Monday” was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem Moses P.C.

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posted by: robn on January 9, 2018  9:17am

Intensified political balkanization is a problem, not a solution.
Plus, Elliot’s proposals are all focused upon entitlements rather than fixing our long term debt problem caused by overblown/underfunded public pensions. Thanks for the Scooby Snacks but lets get down to business…the Democratic Party needs to stop strangling the state with debt.

posted by: Bohica on January 9, 2018  11:11am

I would guess that the values Harp believes in don’t extend much further than the city limits.  Keep this up and the Republicans will control both houses and the Governor’s office

posted by: cunningham on January 9, 2018  11:37am

robn: How does calling for increased taxes on the wealthy, legalized (and taxed) recreational pot, and an increased minimum wage (thereby increasing income and sales tax revenue) not address problems with the budget?

posted by: robn on January 9, 2018  12:07pm


Because even a steep tax on the wealthy in CT (assuming they don’t flee the state in droves) won’t make a dent in our massive problem because there aren’t enough of them (there a re many more poor people than ultra-wealthy people). The state’s four major cities alone…Hartford, Waterbury, New Haven, and Bridgeport, have $4.8B in retirement benefit obligations. CTs “unfunded” pension liabilities is on the order of $20B. Also, you’re assuming that a higher minimum wage doesn’t result in less employment at small businesses, which comprise most of our businesses (Seattle and other cities are experimenting with this but the jury is still out on this issue).

posted by: 1644 on January 9, 2018  12:14pm

On budget, and on affordable housing, Reed and Slossberg voted with their towns.  Elliot and Harp are asking suburban representatives to vote against their constituents’ interests on principle.  This is an risky electoral strategy.  Unlike New Haven, these are swing districts.  Opposing Democrat representatives who actually represent the districts, Elliot and Harp are pushing the districts to swing Republican.

posted by: opin1 on January 9, 2018  12:45pm

“I would agree with” Elliott, Harp said. “It’s hard to do business when people in your own party see things differently than you do. I don’t want to target any one person. But the truth of the matter is these are people who don’t represent our values. Why should they be supported?”

I’m really disappointed in what Harp is saying here. It comes across to me as arrogant and as bullying. I’m a Democrat and while I would like to support mayor Harp, I certainly don’t agree with all of her viewpoints. Her goal should not revolve around eliminating other Democrats who don’t share HER VALUES; what’s important is that each politician share the values of their constituents, then those elected need to come up with compromises. 

“But when it is even, and you have four or five people who really are conservative and in any other world would be Republican, it creates a problem for the vision being implemented.”

-No, they would not be republican in any other world. You are trying to slander those democrats who don’t agree with your entire view. And they probably got elected because they represent the views of their constituents. Instead of trying to overthrow them, you should work with them.

While my belief system is fairly progressive (I agree with most of what Elliot wants), I would never vote for Elliot due to his all-or-nothing demands.  I agree with those Democrats who feel that moving the needle too far to the left alienates moderate liberals and we end up with -well look at our president.

posted by: Noteworthy on January 9, 2018  1:08pm

No Brainer Notes:

1. The only reason Harp has survived all these years is through threats, intimidation via primary challenges to those not loyal to the party plantation.

2. It’s no surprise she doesn’t adhere to big tent, inclusive views because she is old school. No bi-partisanship. No discussions, no compromise.

3. When you control the all the levers, no problem.

4. Harp’s view has wreaked destruction and mayhem on this state. The proof is in the tax receipts, lack of jobs and opportunity and extraordinary poor financials for the state and the city.

5. The hallmark of a good leader is to recognize weaknesses, admit mistakes, create real lasting solutions. It is not executing people for lack of party fealty. That’s the character of a spoiled, poor leader.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on January 9, 2018  2:17pm

When Rep. Elliott was in grade school, the House Democrats were split into Progressive and Moderate caucuses. Even though the Democrats had a substantial majority, Republicans and the Moderates were able to block a wide range of bills. Were Rep. Elliott’s proposal to be followed, there is a real chance the same thing could happen, even if the D’s pick up seats.

posted by: 1644 on January 9, 2018  3:22pm

Meanwhile, in The Valley, aka Connecticut’s “Trump Country,” http://valley.newhavenindependent.org/archives/entry/reaction_gentile_wont_seek_re-election_so_whats_next_for_the_district/
Pushing Reed and Slossberg to vote against their constituents’ interests will be great ... for Republicans!

posted by: cunningham on January 9, 2018  3:37pm

@ robn

We can solve the budget crises in three ways: by cutting costs by reducing state employee pensions/benefits and eliminating services to many of the most vulnerable people in the state; by raising more revenue; or some combination of the two. The combination would probably work best. Elliott’s proposals address the revenue end of things, explicitly, in a few ways.

Leading in from that, progressive measures like raising the minimum wage and improving family/medical leave would likely reduce costs by tossing fewer people into the social safety net. More importantly, they would materially improve the lives of many, many people.

And none of this is at all to the exclusion of renegotiating state employee pensions/other benefits to reduce the burden to the state further.

(As for a higher minimum wage resulting a net loss in total jobs, there’s no evidence that this is the case: http://www.nelp.org/publication/raise-wages-kill-jobs-no-correlation-minimum-wage-increases-employment-levels/)

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on January 9, 2018  5:52pm

Unlike many, I have to agree with Mayor Harp on this one.  If it were flipped the other way, Republicans would adopt the same approach.

Democrats must stand something collectively, and go down fighting for that very platform and stop capitulating to Republicans.  Simply put, show some backbone.

Some may read my words and feel as though I’m against Republicans, not true.  In fact, I admire Republicans because they’ll fight for what they believe in, even if it’s against the broader interest of the majority of the electorate.  E,g, the most recent Tax Bill signed into law.  It is this comportment in my view, that the Democratic Party must too adopt in order to advance its numbers.  Absent ignoring the majority’s interest. 

It seems to me that Mayor Harp is only sending a message to the party regarding the importance of congruency as it pertains to cohesion.  If that is the case, she’s correct.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 9, 2018  6:04pm

The donkey and the elephant symbols of the two dominant political parties are tied at the hip. Both are rotten to the core.We neeed to put the donkey and the elephant on a raft and push them out to sea.The Republicans do the bank job.The Democrats drive the getaway car.Both parties are riding you from behind.

posted by: 1644 on January 10, 2018  9:03am

Brian:  How many Republicans do you actually know?  I am guessing not many.  Connecticut Republicans are a diverse group.  There are no litmus tests for membership or nomination.  Frankly, while we may grumble amongst ourselves, we know we do not have the luxury of purges, and are happy to welcome anyone who wants to join us. for whatever reason.  I know many Republicans, including JR and other State Central Committee members.  For example, on issues life abortion and gay marriage, there is a diversity of opinion, but the majority are probably pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. 
  As for the tax bill, every analysis I have seen shows a majority of Americans will get a tax cut.  Those who will be hammered will be those in the comfortable, haute bourgeoisie class, such as Rosa DeLauro, who make over $250K to low seven figures and live in high tax states.  In New Haven, I expect this group is literally the top 1%.

posted by: robn on January 10, 2018  9:43am


The problem is that, even if most people have lower taxes in the short term, in 8 years when they expire, the change to the SALT deduction cap will still be in place. This is a blatant economic civil war waged by the GOP, transferring wealth from ALREADY donor states like Connecticut to ALREADY dependent states like Alabama. It’s a BS move and I won’t be surprised if states like New York and California lead the revolt with workarounds (they are already contemplating reclassification of state income tax as charitable income to shield it from the feds.)

posted by: 1644 on January 10, 2018  10:11am

I will note, this dispute is not about party loyalty.  Those Democrats who voted for the Republican alternative budget were no more disloyal than those like Elliot who voted against the ultimate budget.  Both sets of legislators voted against their leadership and the majority of their caucus, both put their own judgment and the interests of their constituents above that of their caucus.  To mix anatomical metaphors, the budget vote was a contest over which wing, right or left, of the Democratic caucus would be the tail that wagged the dog. In the initial budget, the urban left wagged it.  In the ultimate budget, the suburban moderates wagged it.  (The ultimate budget also lost the most conservative Republican members.)

  I, also, note that the Republican budget that Reed and Slossberg voted for did more to protect the least amongst us than the Democratic budget that Elliot supported.  The biggest difference between the budgets was on UConn, where Democrats, enraptured by the idea of having the 18th ranked public research university, and cut social services to fund UConn.  Fasano spoke of the need to help the disabled, while Looney spoke of how much being number 18 meant to the Democrats.

posted by: 1644 on January 10, 2018  12:02pm

Robn:  Well, we are wandering off topic here, but isn’t redistribution of wealth and income want Democrats are for?  If Elliot and Harp think we don’t have enough at the state level, why do we have enough on the federal level?  From a poor state’s perspective, the SALT deduction is an unfair loophole for the wealthy in CT, NY, CA etc.  In any case, only 41% of CT taxpayers itemize, so the limitation on SALT won’t increase tax liability for the majority of CT residents.  As for the expiration, that can be extended.  It is an artifice to evade deficit rules. And yes, I saw the NYT article, and tried to post it to the article on the SALT limit, but commenting was closed due to expiration of time.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on January 10, 2018  12:04pm

@ 1644,

Regarding the “number of Republicans I know” at be somewhere in the area of 40.  And several of them are my very good friends.

It isn’t the volume of diverse messages going under the Republican’s tent that’s in question. It’s the message that comes out of the tent that has the vast majority of Americans recoiling. 

“Both put
their own judgment and the interests of their constituents above that of
their caucus.”  Are you referring to the highly unpopular Tax Bill your party just heaped upon the American middle class and the working poor?  Not to mention the national debt. 

The tax and spend mantle now belong to the Republican Party.

posted by: 1644 on January 10, 2018  1:11pm

Brian: No, I am not talking of the federal tax bill.  I am speaking of the state budget votes, and state party matters, which are the topic of this article.  On one had, we side, we had folks like Elliot voting against the budget, and while on the other side, we had folks like Suzio.  Our state, including the CT Republican Party, has pretty much zero influence on what happens in DC, given we have no republican representatives there.  Obviously, the Democrats know the state is a mess, but also that Trump is unpopular in CT.  As you know, even the New Haven RTC chair didn’t vote for him.  So, the Democrat campaign strategy has been to ignore state and local issues, to change the subject to national issues and run its municipal elections against Trump, as if local First Selectmen had any influence on Trump.  Meanwhile, Republican candidates for federal office try to drag Malloy and the state’s mess into federal races, although they haven’t gotten much press yet.

posted by: robn on January 10, 2018  1:24pm


Whether or not you think its fair in concept, the reality is that the SALT deduction has been in place since the begging of federal taxation. Eliminating it now is unfairly pulling the rug out from under people who have done lots of long term planning purchasing houses and deciding where to live.
Also to challenge your oft repeated “fairness” comment, why is it unfair for CT tax dollar to remain in state?

posted by: 1644 on January 11, 2018  8:28am

Robn:  “Fair”, like “just”, is a malleable term, without fixed or obvious meaning.  What is fair to one may appear unfair to another.  Is it fair that I am taxed to support people who have made less responsible life choices?  E.g., having children without the means to support them, using drugs, speculating on the housing market by buying a house with little money down? Is it fair that, in 2008, the Fed gave banks large capital injections without nationalizing them?  That bankruptcy judges ignored centuries of precedent to favor unsecured debts of pensioners and union workers over secured creditors in the auto and Detroit cases?  That Congress, in passing PROMESA,  overturned bond covenants and the Puerto Rican Constitution that prioritized GO bonds over all other expenditures?  FYI, last year I had over $10 in SALT deductions, and over $24K in total deductions.  Nonetheless, I can see this issue from the perspective of someone in Texas or Florida.

posted by: robn on January 11, 2018  11:05am


Reductio ad absurdum. If we don’t contemplate whats fair then we might as well not have any laws. But we do contemplate it and we do have laws, so there.
The oldest tax laws we have dating to right after the revolutionary war recognized local and state tax deductions. Its a premise of law making that precedent counts. You just don’t pull the rug out from under 240 years of legal precedent.

posted by: JCFremont on January 11, 2018  11:59am

Not surprised by this with only one party in town why wouldn’t there be infighting. One solution could be redrawing the districts so that they can draw lines of like minded voters. As we have seen in one party moderates are being
pushed by more conservative candidates while the other party the moderates are being pushed by the more liberal candidates. Can we name a term that describes a political party that closes debates and restricts competing candidates? These “highly educated voters” of New Haven may laugh at those backwater states that have been in the news lately but I don’t see any difference in any of the Northeast political thuggary (or should I use the term Bullying) and self segregations that has been building since the turn of the century.

posted by: 1644 on January 11, 2018  1:39pm

Robn: I’d be interested in your citation to the deductibility of SALT 240 years ago,  especially since we didn’t have any income tax until 1861, and our current system didn’t come in until after the 16th amendment.  Even then, few, if any, states had income taxes. As for the principle of avoiding double taxation, why doesn’t CT allow me to deduct my local property taxes from my income?  Wouldn’t that be fair?  As far as fairness, we change our minds as a society as to what is fair.  For many years, property rights, including the right to own other people, were paramount over individual freedom.  Likewise, we had Plessy, laws regulating sexual behavior, laws restricting the rights of aliens (including legal aliens), women, etc.

posted by: robn on January 11, 2018  2:18pm


Meant to write Civil War, as in the Civil War-financing Revenue Act of 1862.
150 years of precedent not enough for you?
And we’re not talking about universal rights, we’re talking about arbitrary wealth transfer from already donor states to already dependent states.

posted by: 1644 on January 11, 2018  3:42pm

Robn:  Actually, section 91 of the 1862 act (the nation’s second income tax, both of which were illegal), allowed only for the deduction of taxes on property “from which ... income is derived.”  Taxes on non-income producing property would not have been deductible.  The $10K limit only applies to your Schedule A, personal deductions.  Just as in 1862,  taxes on income producing property remain fully deductible on your schedule C, E, or F, as appropriate.  No doubt, some high worth individuals, especially those who already hold their homes in shell LLC, may try to set that LLC up as a profit-making entity to which they pay rent.  BTW, I have certainly seen the deductibility of sales tax go in and out of the tax code, so there’s no set rule that SALT have always been deductible.  The “rights” I mentioned are far from universal, even today there are many places where they don’t exist.  Many exist here today primarily because at least 5 of nine Supreme Court have created them, in spite of contrary precedents.  If those rights were timeless, immutable truth, they would have been recognized in all human societies throughout time and space.

posted by: robn on January 11, 2018  4:24pm


So I’m down to a mere century of precedent for deduction of the majority of State and Local Income taxes? Please.
Its economic civil war and, like CA and NY, CT should drop the gloves and refuse.

posted by: 1644 on January 12, 2018  10:30am

Good reading for all who think CT needs higher taxes on wealthy, more business regulation:
https://www.cga.ct.gov/fin/tfs/20171205_Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth/20180108/Jim Loree Presentation.pdf

Major takeaways:  Income tax highly volatile, mostly from 10 wealthy towns, not alone is CT losing population, those leaving are generally wealthy, while those moving in are generally poor.

posted by: robn on January 12, 2018  11:44am


This I think we agree upon. CT has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Years of the legislature being captive of state and municipal workers unions has led to us being on the hook for the most overblown retirement packages in the country.

posted by: RobotShlomo on January 12, 2018  4:22pm

Harp supports a “purge”?? I thought the whole point of our system of government was to ENCOURAGE debate and compromise, and yet here Toni Harp is saying (paraphrasing) “NO!! Let’s get rid of debate so we can get our way”.

Seriously, for any of you who still back Harp, she’s showing that she’s just another corporatist Democrat chasing that corporate money.

And @robin taxing the wealthy making them pay their fair share, legalizing recreational marijuana, and living wages do indeed work. This whole talking point “high wages mean less employment” is a conservative talking point. Nobody believes it anymore. Economists all say that if you give working people and the poor more money, they put it back into the economy, and reduces dependence on social programs. Rich people can only buy so much stuff, and they SIT on their money. The jury is not out in Seattle, it’s working;


Legalizing recreational pot will put less strain on our legal system by not feeding prisoners to the private prison system, and taxing recreational pot puts money into the government, and as a side effect will increase tourism as more people come here to buy pot.

It’s time to stop with this whole “aaaw shucksee doodles, we just gotta be nice to rich people and build them luxury apartments, and MAYBE they’ll give us jobs” trickle down nonsense. It’s not working. It NEVER worked.

posted by: robn on January 12, 2018  6:19pm


The whole premise of the left-leaning article you linked to is based upon the Belman and Wolfson study. In that, the authors admit that their historical data tracked minimum wage increases far, far less than the jump to $15 currently being proposed hawked by labor entities (they’ve been more like in the 10-15% range and far less frequent, and have been outstripped by inflation so therefore wouldn’t have an impact upon employment.)
The jury certainly is out in Seattle.

posted by: robn on January 12, 2018  6:25pm

Also…the UWash study (which concluded that the large raise in Seattle’s minimum wage has lessened hours worked by low wage employees) has a much much bigger data set than the opposing Berkeley study (which looked only at restaurants).
But not a lot of time has gone by so lets see what happens.

posted by: 1644 on January 14, 2018  11:18am

Robn:  I don’t like Herbst as a person, but he may be the only one who will really crush the public employee unions.  We are, in fact, locked into the current retiree benefit scheme and large pay increases for the next two years.  After those two years, however, the state is free to impose pay cuts on its employees, change work hours etc., all because the state need not collectively bargain with its employees.  Their rights to collective bargaining are solely a creature of statute, and statutes may be changed by the state.  In the meantime, the Malloy administration is opening new, union staffed DMV offices to replace the AAA offices which used to handle DMV matters in greater New Haven.  Yes, AAA wanted to be paid to handle non-members’ business, but I bet its fees would have been far less costly than opening new DMV offices.  Or, for nothing, AAA would have handled members’ DMV business, meaning shorter lines for everyone else.