That Was Fast

Thomas MacMillan PhotoLess than a week after announcing a run for mayor, Justin Elicker had another announcement to make Thursday: He has already raised enough money to qualify for public financing.

Public financing may not be ready for him.

That’s because the board that would give him the money doesn’t have enough members.

Elicker—the first candidate to formally announce he’s running for mayor, before the field opened up this week with incumbent John DeStefano’s retirement announcement —made his announcement in a press release issued mid-morning. (He’s pictured above at DeStefano’s event.)

Meanwhile, Democratic state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield of Newhallville, who plans to formally announce his own mayoral candidacy Friday, told the Independent that he, too, has decided to participate in the public-financing system.

That means this election may give New Haven its first true test of the system’s efficacy—whether it can indeed keep down the cost of campaigning and enable a wide variety of candidates to compete.

Elicker reported collecting $15,285 from 235 people, more than half of them giving under $25, in his first six days as an official candidate.

If the Democracy Fund—which administers the city’s public-financing system—certifies Elicker’s paperwork, he will qualify for an estimated $9,400 in matching bucks as well as, eventually, a $19,000 bonus. To qualify for public money, candidates have to swear off contributions from outside committees and limit individual contributors to $370. The Democracy Fund offers the $19,000 grant (distributed once an opponent has raised $5,500) plus matching money to candidates who raise a minimum of donations—at least $10 each from 200 local voters. A candidate who raises just $2,000 can obtain up to $23,000. The Fund double-matches up to $25 of each individual contribution (therefore with a $50 ceiling per contribution).

The cash will certainly help Elicker’s nascent campaign. Perhaps more importantly, the milestone helps him in a quest all official and soon-to-be-official candidates face in the scramble to succeed a 20-year incumbent: to establish themselves as credible and devoted to open, democratic government in what is expected to be a crowded field.

Elicker, a two-term Democratic alderman from East Rock, made that larger point in his press release Thursday.

“Our campaign is about moving beyond politics as usual and that is a fundamental reason we are participating in Democracy Fund,” he stated. “The number of contributions we have raised in such a short period is an affirmation that New Haven residents are excited about our campaign and believe in our choice to support public financing.”

His imminent filing puts the Democracy Fund in a “pickle,” said its administrator, Ken Krayeske.

By law Krayeske will have five days to give Elicker his money, assuming he verifies the contributions.

But also by law Krayeske can’t give Elicker his money. Because he needs the fund’s board to approve the disbursement. And the board lacks a quorum to hold a meeting or vote.

Only three of the board’s seven slots are currently filled. The DeStefano administration, which has clashed with the Fund, dragged its feet in nominating new members as other members left over the past year. The fund finally lost its fourth member, Anna Mariotti, when she left earlier this month in order to take a job as the mayor’s new spokeswoman.

The administration has since forwarded the name of a potential new member, attorney John DiManno, an unaffiliated voter, to the Board of Aldermen for approval. The board’s Aldermanic Affairs Committee approved the selection this week. It goes next to the full board for approval.

If that approval comes—and then if all four members of the Fund show up for the next meeting—it can vote on giving Elicker his cash.

Meanwhile, Elicker is off and running.

And, according to mayoral Chief of Staff Sean Matteson, the administration is speaking with other potential Democracy Fund board members to nominate.

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posted by: anonymous on January 31, 2013  12:45pm

The approval of volunteer Board Members for such an important civic function should be fast-tracked - just as it would be for any other critical public commission that needs to make decisions about the city’s future.

It is great to hear that there are at least two candidates for Mayor who are committed to public financing and transparency.  Any candidates who do not run under the public financing system should be automatically disqualified from consideration by voters who care about the future of our city and state.  We need to get big money out of politics.

posted by: Curious on January 31, 2013  1:44pm

I’m very interested to see if all those who run stick with this system.  It could put the Local 34 machine in a real bind, whoever they end up choosing to endorse.

posted by: ElmCityMama on January 31, 2013  1:58pm

So excited for fresh and visionary leadership!  A true mayor of the people!

posted by: EdgewoodMom on January 31, 2013  2:00pm

That was amazingly fast. He has shown that he really wants it. I just hope that he has a few townies close to him and not just out-of-towners.

posted by: Wooster Squared on January 31, 2013  2:06pm

Great job Justin! It’s fantastic to see so many New Haven voters supporting clean elections through the democracy fund. Let’s hope the potential candidates do the same. We’ve had over 20 years of elections funded by special interests, city contractors and other who benefit from government largess. We’re all sick of that way of doing things.

The fact that Justin was able to qualify for the Democracy Fund within a week of declaring his candidacy shows that residents are tired of the old “pay to play” system and are hungry for a more transparent government.

posted by: Fair and Honest on January 31, 2013  2:47pm

Hooray for Democracy in New Haven! This is an important achievement.

>That was amazingly fast. He has shown that he really wants it—Fairhaven Angel<

Yes - and that there’s quite a lot of people behind him who are enthusiastic too!

posted by: cedarhillresident! on January 31, 2013  2:54pm

Congrate’s Justin!!!!!
This is so exciting! I know Cedar Hill is very excited about Justin running.
I also have to tip my hat to Gary for taking part in this system.

This shows that these are dedicated candidates to an honest and transparent election. Bravo!

Vote For Justin!

posted by: HhE on January 31, 2013  3:19pm

fairhavengal, do I qualify as a townie?  I have lived here for over 11 years.  I do not work for Yale, nor any hospital, and my own course work at Yale was a one credit summer art class taught by an adjunct. 

I’m with Justin because I think he is the best choice for all of New Haven (and not the ‘burbs).  Gary is my second choice, and for the same reasons.

posted by: ElmJackCity on January 31, 2013  4:25pm

I’m interested in his policy positions on business development, and the creation and retention of jobs for New Haven.  Last year Jeff Kerekes had a very informative website listing his positions; I would like to see the same for Elicker and Holder-Winfield. 

Additionally, New Haven can seem culturally bereft.  The city primarily hosts events that cater to an upper echelon clientele.  I would like to see an increased use of the Yale Tennis Center for concerts, outdoor symphony, etc., the creation of a convention center, and a more inclusive list of cultural events that target all of the city’s communities.  Such events are large volume draws and help to bolster the business community.

posted by: streever on January 31, 2013  6:22pm

This is great news.

I was surprised at Justin’s first ever political event—years ago—held in his backyard in East Rock. The sheer quantity of people, the enthusiasm, and the energy, all around a folksy, easy-going guy who didn’t seem to anxious about what would be a hard fight to get a hard job.

Years later, I’m not surprised at all.

People believe in Justin and support him because he listens—he cares—he makes decisions in the public eye and is accountable to his voters.

Justin gets a huge turn-out, even in an uncontested election, because his constituents have meaningful dialogue with him and he bases his policy on the concerns and information shared with him.

Justin would be an excellent mayor. He understands the way that policies and legislation work, and he’d be a fantastic manager, which is at least 60% of the job. Listening, responding, and showing appreciation for good work are essential traits of any manager: Justin has all three and a level, steady head.

posted by: lawrence st on January 31, 2013  6:31pm

i am a huge supporter of public financing, and i think it’s shameful that destefano did all he could do hamper the system. i once spoke with him about public financing, and he seems to think all it does is fund negative advertisement. i’ve done several research projects on the program, and i think it’s one of the best things to happen to campaign finance since FECA in 1971.

posted by: Brutus2011 on January 31, 2013  11:14pm

I am a supporter of Gary Holder-Winfield.

I know Gary and he is a special person and well-suited for public life.

However, the more I read about Justin Elicker, and connect that with what I have heard him publicly say over time, makes me want to learn more about him.

Lets just say I now have an open mind re: this mayoral race and inquiring minds want to know.

posted by: SaveOurCity on February 1, 2013  9:37am

I would also identify myself as a ‘townie’.  Ten years of home ownership in New Haven - no Yale affiliation.  I’ve watched my tax bill go through the roof while simultaneously seeing most of the city services get worse.  Once of the few things in the city that I can count one is that Justin will find a way to get problems solved (parks beautification, traffic calming, budget tratransparency, residents voice in development projects….etc)

posted by: Curious on February 1, 2013  11:29am

Cedarhillresident, you guys need to get together in your community and make some videos about all the things you’re talking about that Justin’s gotten accomplished.  That’s some real grassroots-type stuff, and very powerful.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on February 1, 2013  11:51am

Good idea, I have pics of all of it but a video would be great. TY as always

posted by: kenneth_krayeske on February 1, 2013  11:52am

I just want to take a moment to clarify that the Administrator does not need to ask permission from the Fund Board to disburse funds.  The Democracy Fund ordinance grants the Administrator a level of discretion, and authorizes the Administrator to ask the City Finance Department to disburse funds to a candidate without approval from the Board.

The hold-up is that the Administrator cannot exercise this authority without the board having set a schedule of disbursements. Right now, the Fund Board has not approved a disbursements calendar for 2013. Without a quorum, the board cannot set a disbursements schedule, and without a schedule, the Administrator cannot exercise such discretion.

At least that’s the way I read the Ordinance. It is feasible that the discretion in the Ordinance allows the Administrator to bypass the Disbursements Calendar. However, at this early stage of the election season, a conservative interpretation of the Ordinance seems prudent. 

Kenneth J. Krayeske
New Haven Democracy Fund

posted by: sillyputty on February 1, 2013  3:04pm

Brutus2011, if you sign up for Justin’s e-mail list at, you’ll hear about upcoming events where you can meet him and learn about his vision for the city.  Or, go to his coffee hours at Lulu’s any Tuesday morning at 8:30am.

posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on February 4, 2013  12:36pm

I’m interested to see who the usual suspects give another $750,000 to, to keep NH headed in the same direction.