After receiving the endorsement of the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus, Mayor Toni Harp went door-knocking with Hill alders and scored a lawn sign and a commitment of about half a dozen voters to cast their ballots for her on election day.
The exercise in New Haven retail politicking featured took place Thursday evening on Arch Street between Columbus and Congress, where the caucus had organized a formal announcement. About 50 people, including alders and other Latino politicos current and past, gathered on the Arch Street green space at about mid-block.
The statewide caucus, whose main mission is to identify and encourage Latinos to run for political office, had officially endorsed Mayor Harp for a third term during a meeting last weekend in New Britain, said Chairwoman Norma Rodriguez-Reyes.
Harp, who is seeking a third two-year term, facing Marcus Paca in s a Sept. 12 Democratic Party primary
Among the people attending the endorsement ceremony were Alders Ernie Santiago, Kenneth Reveiz, Jose Crespo, Dolores Colon, and Rodriguez.
City Elderly Services Director Migdalia Castro was in attendance along with Joe Rodriguez, former Fair Haven alder and currently Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s state operations director; former Alder Maria Rodriguez; mayoral chief of staff Tomas Reyes; police commissioner Kevin Diaz, and new city economic development small-business staffer Gerry Garcia, who was the first Latino to come close to getting on the statewide ballot in 2009 as a candidate for secretary of state.
In her remarks at the endorsement ceremony, Rodriguez-Reyes said it is now time a Latino be on the ballot for one of the major offices: “We need a slated state constitutional officer in order to tell our people that inclusion is taking place,” she said.
Amid an array of campaign flyers, buttons, stickers, and T-shirts, distric State Rep. Juan Candelaria, whose family lives on Arch Street, hailed the mayor for her keeping the city safe, balancing the budget, and not increasing taxes during a time when the state is in deficit.
“We don’t need to change our mayor. We need to endorse her. She’s a leader who protects people. She’s done an exemplary job. We need to knock on doors,” he declared.
Several groups, including the mayor and Hill Alder Evelyn Rodriguez, who is also running for re-election, did precisely that after the ceremony.
At the ten or so doors knocked on in the following half hour, about half the residents answered. All indicated they are registered. They pledged to support the mayor, for different reasons.
After being interrupted during their spaghetti dinner, sisters Lubertha Hill and Joan Bynum took a picture with the mayor. They said they feel safer these days in their tidy Arch Street house.
A little farther down the block Liliana Lopez and her husband were on the porch of their neatly painted home.
“I’m Jonathan,” said Harp Hill Field Coordinator Jonathan Colon. “Can I count on your vote?”
“Most likely,” replied Lopez “I like the presence of woman as mayor.”
“Thank you,” said Mayor Harp.
Even though Lopez and her husband were still upset that their car had recently been stolen — it was found and returned a week later — that didn’t alter the support, she said.
Lopez has been in her house for nine years, she said. During that time the neighborhood had improved, in her estimation. The reason: most of the houses are owned by the people who occupy them.
Up the block from Lopez, the mayor learned, through the translation of Rodriguez, that Lisandro Castro’s high-school aged special needs son had finally found a school and teachers who are helping him. After struggles in one or more schools, he’s in a place where “the care is very good,” Castro said, with evident relief as she recalled previous episodes.
“That’s good to hear,” said the mayor.
Just next door at 55 Arch, Debra Willoughby was sitting on the trim lawn of the house that she purchased, in foreclosure, nine years before, and since fixed up.
She praised the quiet on the block. She said Alder Rodriguez, had knocked on her door as soon as she moved in and has been in regular contact since.
To Harp she said, “Since you’ve been mayor, we haven’t had high rates of crime.”
To her alder she said, pointing to the street, “It’s a racetrack here. Are we going to get our speed bumps?”
“We’re on the list,” Rodriguez replied.
After ten more minutes of chatting, one of the Harp staffers asked if Willoughby would mind if the campaign put a sign on the property.Willoughby gave the OK.