Toni Harp Elected Mayor

For the first time in New Haven’s 375-year history, “Hizzoner” is about to become “Her Honor.”

That’s because voters Tuesday elected Toni Harp as their next mayor—the first woman ever to win the job.

Harp will usher in a new era when she takes office on Jan. 1, ending Mayor John DeStefano’s two-decade tenure as the city’s chief elected officer and primary civic agenda-setter.

“Wait, listen, hear that sound: That is the sound of a glass ceiling shattering!” Harp declared to boisterous supporters at a jam-packed victory party at Kelly’s Gastro Pub Bar & Restaurant on Crown Street. Click the play arrow to watch her speech.

“We are on fire!” Harp said, riffing on her campaign theme song. “The flames of inclusion engulf us.” And she told her supporters: “You will be at the table. You will be heard. Together, we can move New Haven forward.”

Thomas MacMillan PhotoAccording to the Independent’s tally of the machine votes in all 30 wards, Harp (pictured) beat back a strong challenge by petitioning candidate Justin Elicker, winning by 11,353 to 9,416 votes, or 54.66 percent to 45.34 percent. Those numbers include absentee ballots and votes cast by same-day registration.

Click here for ward-by-ward breakdowns of the vote. (To compare the results to the September Democratic primary ward-by-ward results, click here.)

Elicker called Harp to offer his congratulations. Harp told the crowd at Kelly’s about that, and she thanked him. She called Elicker “a young man of ideas and substance, and he has a great future ahead of him.”

She also credited DeStefano as a mayor who “did the best that he knew how to do on behalf of the city.”

In the city/town clerk’s race, Democrat Michael Smart crushed incumbent Ron Smith, who ran as an independent, by about 62 to 38 percent.

And voters overwhelmingly chose to amend the city charter to give more power to the Board of Aldermen. By 82 and 71 percent respectively, voters approved two referendum questions that will, among other changes, create a hybrid Board of Education (partly elected, partly appointed by the mayor) and give the Board of Aldermen approval powers over many top mayoral appointments.

Tuesday’s election capped an energetic 10-month mayoral campaign that at one point saw seven active candidates seeking a mayoral seat that became open for the first time since 1993.

Elicker, a two-term East Rock alderman, waged what all sides acknowledged was an impressive campaign. He defeated candidates with far longer service and better name recognition in town to emerge as the final opponent to Harp, an 11th-term state senator who was the mayoral race’s instant frontrunner because of her popularity, decades of public service, and overwhelming support from elected officials and politically active unions. The campaign offered voters at least 17 debates (we lost count) on issues ranging from food policy to budgeting and the arts.

At a post-election party at Bar on Crown Street, Elicker (pictured) offered an upbeat, future-oriented assessment of his campaign to some 125 celebratory supporters downing bottles of Budweisers and Newcastle.

“I’m proud to be standing side by side with so many people who believe in the ideas that we were talking about .. that believed in a government that was clean and had integrity ...  that people don’t necessarily have a background in politics can actually say in what government does for them. ... We earned every single vote in this campaign. We earned it. And I mean it. Nothing was given to us.”

He also spoke of how his campaign proved that a candidate could run a viable race while voluntarily participating in the public-financing system.

Elicker challenged his supporters to join him in remaining involved in local politics—and in working with the Harp campaign’s supporters to improve New Haven.

“Politics is not about one election. So much of this campaign isn’t about this election. But it’s about redefining New Haven and redefining our government. And we have successfully done that. And as we move forward I know you will join me in pushing more on this political system and pushing more on the ideas ... pushing more for a government with integrity.”

DeStefano issued a statement Tuesday night congratulating Harp: “I am excited by the promise of new leadership that Toni Harp will bring to the City of New Haven.  As the current mayor of New Haven, and as a lifelong New Haven resident, I look forward to the new administration’s commitment to serve the hopes and dreams of the people of our wonderful city.  I will be glad to assist in any way I can.”

Meanwhile, Teresa Younger, head of the statewide Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, released a statement about the historic significance of Harp’s victory:

“With her election, Toni Harp has become the first female mayor in New Haven’s 375 years, and is currently the only woman serving as mayor of one of Connecticut’s largest cities. In fact, she’s managed to do what only a handful of American women have achieved: according the U.S. Conference of Mayors, there are only 27 other women currently serving as mayor of cities with a population equal to or greater than New Haven’s (about 130,700). As we congratulate her on her election to this leadership position, we must also call attention to the unfortunate reality of the lack of political parity, which continues to cause a gross imbalance in our elected leadership.”

2 Views On “Experience”

Paul Bass PhotoSome voters waited until the last day to decide whom to vote for.

One Westville couple, Lizzy Donius and Ken McGill (pictured at the Ward 25 polling station at Edgewood School), supported different candidates—on different days. McGill started out planning to vote for Harp, then decided within the last day to vote for Elicker because of his concerns about the ethics of some of Harp’s allies. (He mentioned zoning lawyer and former state Sen. Anthony Avallone and former city development chief Sal Brancati in particular.) Donius, who was planning to vote for Elicker, said she, too, worried about that issue but in the end voted for Harp because of Harp’s greater experience in government.

Kim Jenkins, a 50-year-old housing authority maintenance worker who lives in Bishop Woods/Quinnipiac Meadows’ Ward 12, said she voted for Harp because of Harp’s experience in the State Senate.

Harp’s greater experience cut both ways with voters, some of whom sought someone less connected to the political establishment.

“I want a different face in there. Someone who can challenge the establishment,” said Robb Gallo, a 43-year-old laid-off Praxair worker who voted for Elicker in Fair Haven Heights’ Ward 13.  He called Harp “a name I’ve recognized for years. I want a different face in there. Someone who can challenge the establishment.”

A particularly sought-after bloc of voters in the general election consisted of Democrats who had voted for Henry Fernandez in the Democratic primary. From the start of the general election campaign, Elicker pursued that bloc; he needed its overwhelming support to catch up with Harp.

Nick DeFiesta PhotoThe experience question (which Fernandez had used against Elicker in the primary) proved important for at least some previous Fernandez voters. Yale sophomore Eleanor Marshall (pictured) called Harp’s experience “valuable,” along with Harp’s support from Yale’s unions, so she went with her. Yale junior Nneoma Ahuruonye shared concerns about Elicker’s inexperience, but moved from Fernandez in the primary to Elicker in Tuesday’s general election because Elicker could “actually bring some change in the city.”

The Saddam Factor

One voter who lives in the new Brookside public-housing development in West Rock offered an unusual reason for her voting: the Middle East and the price of gas.

The voter, Susan Bachli, said she voted for Elicker because of a Toni Harp ad which contained a person wearing a T-shirt with Arabic writing.  “I’m sick of paying Arabs four dollars [a gallon] for gas,” she said by way of explanation. When told that the New Haven mayor does not have much say about the price of gas, she replied, “This is America. You want to be mayor of New Haven ... it’s like inviting Saddam Hussein to dinner.” (Harp campaign manager Jason Bartlett said he couldn’t immediately recall an ad with Arabic writing. “But even if we did, we embrace everyone in this city,” he added.)

Nick DeFiesta, Cora Lewis, and Thomas MacMillan contributed reporting to this story.

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posted by: robn on November 5, 2013  8:44pm

Good luck union coalition. You break it, you bought it.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 5, 2013  8:58pm

Congrats to Mayor Harp. Here is hoping she puts together a solid administration to help her lead New Haven forward.

posted by: grounded on November 5, 2013  10:39pm

So for all of the thousands of dollars raised and the volunteers dispatched and the negative campaigning, Elicker did just about as well as a poorly funded half-assed campaign managed by the candidate’s non-political-professional wife two years ago.  Percentage wise Elicker did almost exactly what Kerekes did two years ago.

posted by: grounded on November 5, 2013  10:53pm

It occurs to me, and I realize that this is going to make me sound like a conspiracy theorist . . .

So Elicker didn’t do any better than Kerekes and that’s bad for Elicker.

But, why did Smart (with his absentee ballot fraud) and the charter questions (which were supported by the BOA and the unions) do SO MUCH BETTER than Harp did?  Why is it that when I went to vote this morning, there was a union-paid staffer telling me how to vote on the charter questions but no one telling me to vote for Harp?  And I got 3 phone calls today from CCNE (unions) telling me to vote for the charter questions but not a single phone call telling me to vote for Harp?

My read?  The unions chose to run Harp this time around because she was an easy win.  Their real end game is to get a real union person (because Harp is way too independently popular to be solely reliant on the unions) in office in 2015 or 2017.  Harp is in her 60’s and may not be a long-term mayor.  Unions have an end game here and it wasn’t accomplished today.  Hope for all of our sake that Harp knows who her real friends are.

posted by: JMS on November 6, 2013  2:17am

My heartfelt congratulations and thanks to Justin Elicker for a great and inspiring run regardless of the outcome of this election. His no nonsense campaign dialog was about as refreshing as I have heard in politics in many years and he will hopefully have a meaningful effect on local politics for a number of years. We should be so lucky to have more folks like him fighting for transparency in New Haven. In his concession speech he said he was proud to represent those who “believed in a government that was clean and had integrity”. Sadly he may have just learned that traditionally these things just don’t mix very well (government and integrity). And clearly you don’t need any to get elected.

posted by: Chip on November 6, 2013  4:29am

Congratulations Tony! I know you’ll be a great mayor! For the youth of New Haven, please boost the number of youth and after school programs.

posted by: TheMadcap on November 6, 2013  6:31am

Actually grounded Elicker put up a strong showing(much like Kerkes did in 2011). To quote the NHI itself
Updates: Elicker sounds upbeat theme—calls on supporters to join him in working with Harp’s supporters to make New Haven better—also says his strong showing (and it was indeed a very strong showing) proves that candidates can run “clean” on public financing and still compete.

A 54-46 showing isn’t terrible under any circumstances(heck Liz Warren won by a marginally smaller margin in super blue Massachusetts in 2012), but it’s really not bad when one of the candidate has been in local politics for 25 years and raised near 40% more money than their opponent who had severely more limited name recognition and finances, and also didn’t have a party name next to them. I’m quite happy with the showing, team Elicker put on one heck of a campaign, but as the results show, it did fall short.

posted by: HewNaven on November 6, 2013  7:33am

Well, the Democratic machine got their lapdog into office. Now, let’s see if she’s feisty enough to disobey her new masters, or if she’ll just spend the next two years learning to bark on command.

Congratulations to the Harpies. You didn’t always do the honorable thing, and in some cases you were downright despicable (e.g. shouting at the last debate, using multiple non-profits for political gain, taking candy from strangers) but you did prevail in the end. It just goes to show, in a true fight there are no holds barred. You must go to any length to prevent defeat. You may even break the law.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on November 6, 2013  8:30am

Congratulations to New Haven’s first female mayor. I know many Independent commenters were very strong Elicker supporters, but they should acknowledge the historic nature of her victory. You may view her as part of “the machine,” but the truth is, rising up as a black woman to become Mayor of New Haven is an impressive and praiseworthy feat.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 6, 2013  8:30am

The Tammany Hall machine is the winner.

posted by: woosterbill on November 6, 2013  8:44am

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

You’d hope that a progressive city like New Haven might be able to escape the destructive cycle of cronyism and pay-to-play that the establishment bases itself on.

It should be obvious by now that single-party rule, absent serious reform-minded technocrats, leads inevitably to fiscal meltdown. If we want government to keep playing an important role we can’t just keep throwing money at it blindly (as Toni constantly reminds us was her sole raison d’etre in Hartford), we need to make sure it’s fair, efficient, and sustainable.

Burying our heads in the sand regarding the pension issue, and electing an entire government beholden to the unions who (very logically, if short-sightedly) only want to make the pension issue worse, is precisely the wrong course for this city to take.

I was already pretty cynical about politics, but after seeing the way the establishment bought this election and, more depressing still, the glee with which so many voters went along with it, my pessimism has reached a new low.

Here’s hoping the Harp administration proves me wrong.

posted by: robn on November 6, 2013  10:07am

Everyone with good intentions for New Haven should support their city. Give Harp a chance; if she does a good job, praise her; if there’s shenanigans, call her out on it.

posted by: plannerman on November 6, 2013  11:49am

Congratulations to Mayor-elect Harp.

Throughout this campaign, I supported Justin Elicker, but now that the votes are in, let’s not have any sour grapes. It was a hard fought election; there were significant differences of style and substance between the two candidates. And it is historic that New Haven has elected its first woman mayor—that is something to be celebrated.

I hope that Mayor Harp will surprise me by taking a forward-looking, innovative approach to governing. That her stable of decades-long insiders will be able to accelerate New Haven’s present upward arc.

My consolations to Justin and his core team. They worked their butts off, against an uphill climb of endorsements, union organization, and money. I’m proud of what they accomplished, if disappointed in the result.

I still think Justin would have made a better mayor—he really is a different kind of leader than the old-school politico that Harp seems to be. He reminded me of how we can be inspired by self-government at the local scale. I image that Harps supporters felt the same kind of inspiration.

I’ve come to be a strong supporter of unions, and left-political activism in general—so the union support for Harp was particularly difficult to process. I’ve had to wrestle with my own thinking, and that has been good. I think they backed the wrong horse for the city in the long run. It will be interesting to see how things go…

As heated as the boards have become, I hope that we can work together in the future to make New Haven a better place.

posted by: East Rocker 1986 on November 6, 2013  11:52am

I could support the administration of Harp and pathetically hope for a bright future in New Haven, but I will instead do the intelligent thing and begin my plans to move to another city/state that is a little more able-bodied in its decision-making.

Have fun, New Haven, with your speedy approach towards emulating your true sister city, Detroit.

posted by: webblog on November 6, 2013  12:48pm

Congratulations to Mayor -elect Harp, she has called for unity and has pledged that your voices will be heard. If that is so, and if many of you want to contribute to the discourse and upcoming debates, then I strongly suggest you start talking with your feet, rather than fingers, and march to city hall when the various hearings take place.

That would be a positive step and one that relieves you from the almost daily task of questionably criticism leveled from behind your computers over the past year.

Justin has said that he will continue to contribute to New Haven’s forward progress, let’s see if you will follow his lead.


posted by: formerNHIT on November 6, 2013  12:58pm

I really don’t think either of the candidates could have provided the leadership needed to put New Haven on a path of fiscal stability and independence that it needs.  For one thing any “successful” mayor will need to include tax reform (stable and lower) as well as incentives for new business to move to the city.

The city needs to stand independent from the Yale influences while forcing Yale to pay its fair share.

I have to agree with posters that have pointed out that this is more of the same from a party machine that holds a tight grip on the city’s process.  It will be all about tax and spend I think.

I think that Elicker would have consolidated services and eliminated un-needed city and school HQ positions (or at least tried to).  He may have even attempted to hold tax increases at bay.  He may have also tried to leverage Yale more in management of city and school district components which honestly is not what we really need.  He would have ended up having to raise taxes. 

As for Harp, she’s a career politician so expect the same old tax and spend attitude with likely a new set of equally clueless people placed in power positions.

To think I was going to move to this city, so happy I did not.  Nothing has changed and nor should have I expected true change.  New Haven needs to eliminate the party machine that is holding it back.

posted by: Razzie on November 6, 2013  1:02pm

My congrats to Justin Elicker for the strong campaign he was able to run. A virtual newcomer with no roots in New Haven politics and few political friends and benefactors, his vote totals were rather impressive. My nly regret is that he had to engage in the type of negativism and mean-spirited campaigning to get the results he did. It’s been proven time and again that “going negative” does produce results. But my hope in Justin’s candidacy was that he would resist that temptation and remain true to his initial pledge to run on the strength of his ideas. Sadly, that did not happen and he was forced to unleash is supporters nonstop attacks upon Toni Harp, her dead husband, and her entire family members. Such is politics.

I suspect that the only true loser in this race however, was Kermit Carolina. Prior to Sen Harp entering the race, I was considering listening to what he had to say, because I knew little about him and was anxious to learn more. However, he quickly turned me off with his juvenile antics and his lack of regard for his primary responsibilities of educating our youth at Hillhouse. Kermit needs to look deeply within and decide whether he really wants to be an educator, or rather become a politician. To me, those professions are mutually exclusive.

posted by: accountability on November 6, 2013  1:10pm

Pigs are flying and it’s snowing in hell. I agree with robn. Well said.

posted by: jimjoebob on November 6, 2013  1:16pm

Elicker ran a campaign that was smart, principled, and energetic in every way—except in the ways that might have actually led to victory. While I can respect him as a technocrat, I have to question his political acumen.

Unless he didn’t really want to win, but just raise his profile without burning too many bridges. Because in order to win, he would have had to run a scorched-earth campaign against Harp, convincing a sizeable portion of New Havenites of color that a well-off white guy from East Rock by way of New Canaan (and two Yale graduate schools) could do more for their neighborhoods than the most powerful African-American female politician in state history. A steep hill to climb, and honestly he didn’t even really try.

posted by: robn on November 6, 2013  1:40pm


FWIW, If it makes you feel any better, maybe less cynical about the election, I spoke for myself; not as a part of or at the direction of the Elicker campaign. I stand by my critiques of character and I’m disappointed that they didn’t resonate more because I believe them to be truthful. Nevertheless I’m pleased to move on because that’s life. I look forward to being proven wrong.

posted by: accountability on November 6, 2013  2:30pm


I think you’re half right. Parts of Justin’s campaign were smart and principled, and clearly inspired a lot of his supporters.

But the resort to sordid negative attack ads at the end puts to rest any notion that Justin’s campaign represents a new kind of politics. He’s a run of the mill politician who adopted the “clean technocrat” persona, a reformer pose that dates at least to 19th century mugwumpery.

The question that Justin’s supporters, many—although certainly not all—of whom are people with some measure of personal wealth and status, must answer for themselves and the rest of us is this: is Toni the legitimate mayor of New Haven?

For the people who voted for her, that isn’t a question. But Justin, the other candidates and their supporters spewed a lot of personal vitriol and outright lies against her—tax cheat, union puppet, doesn’t even live in New Haven, etc.

The effect in general was to question Toni’s legitimacy to even hold office. She wasn’t elected fairly because the unions cheated and she raised money from outside businesses.

That narrative will be poison for our city. Regardless where she raised her money, Toni won because even though Justin’s team mounted a really commendable grassroots effort, there were, in the end, a lot more New Haven residents willing to volunteer and vote for Toni than for Justin. And the people who did that work and voted are just as smart, just as honest, just as interested in building vibrant communities as Justin supporters. No more perhaps, but no less either.

If Justin’s supporters cannot accept that fact, the racial and class divides inflamed by this campaign will worsen over the next two years, and our ability as a city to come together to build a vital future will be damaged.

But if they can find ways to bring their inspiration, knowledge and passion to bear on the city’s problems under the new Administration, everyone will benefit no matter how they voted yesterday. We need each other.

posted by: jimjoebob on November 6, 2013  3:01pm

@robn: Agreed 100%. Politicians can surprise you sometimes—for instance, who would have guessed that Lyndon Johnson would have so forcefully and decisively ended the hundred-year reign of Jim Crow laws? While I am not overwhelmingly hopeful about Harp, I would be happy to be surprised by her.

@accountability: If you think that the Elicker campaign was “poisonous”, then you’ve never paid attention to any major political campaign in the United States. By the standards of campaigns on the national or state level, or even in cities whose sizes are comparable to ours, this was a pretty clean fight. True, only in the sense that a carpet covered with mud is cleaner than a carpet covered with toxic waste, but still. And I certainly do expect Elicker supporters to be able to work with the Harp administration—these are good-government types: Yale professors, students, rich-to-middle-class white folks whose greatest sin is complacent privilege, not political fanaticism. These aren’t the Congressional Republicans; they are not going to make it their mission to see Toni fail.

posted by: robn on November 6, 2013  3:44pm


The amount of outside money is indisputably real and its statistically clear that money buys face-time and therefore wins elections, but in the end, you’re correct. More citizens pulled the lever (filled the oval?) for Toni and that makes her the legitimate mayor. Most of the pre-election complaints have been in defense of a better city so it will come down to Mayor Harp’s behavior rather than speculative worry. I promise you that in coming years I’ll personally strive for betterment, throw water on fire starters and, as usual, call BS when appropriate.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on November 6, 2013  4:09pm


What are you talking about? Of course everyone commenting on these articles in support of or against either Harp or Elicker did so based on coordinated talking points from their respective candidate. All the Harp supports condemned Elicker as a republican in sheeps clothing at the personal request of Toni Harp, and all Elicker supporters called her a benefactor of a tax-indebted business at his request. Obviously Razzie is correct.

I think it is legitimate for a candidate to point out one’s opponent’s inability to do the very thing that they are responsible for making sure gets done for the job they are seeking ie ensuring that all building permits are collected and paid and all taxes are paid.

Furthermore, it is also legitimate to question the members of one’s opponent’s economic team, especially if members of that team are documented crooks in the very city you are trying to govern. No cheap shots there.

“Mean-spirited” is a person in a position of power belittling people who are minding their own business and just trying to get by. “Mean-spirited” is not calling out a high-profile, very powerful and extremely rich career politician for failing to do the basic duties for which everyone else has to do in order to fund your government salary ie pay all taxes owed in a timely manor and pay all building permit fees. Can’t feel to sorry for that person, especially when they are actively seeking another political office that pays extremely well and is massively influential in the State. Sorry, but I’m not going to cry for you, Argentina.

Elicker brought this up a handful of times over the course of his entire campaign, which was much longer than Harp’s (due to him not being scared of Destefano and a two-face to Holder-Winfield). The vast majority of his campaign focused on issues and ways of addressing those issues, something that Toni only very recently has put much thought and effort into.

But like robn, I really hope I have been completely wrong.

posted by: grounded on November 6, 2013  4:35pm

@ East Rocker 1986: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Comparing New Haven to Detroit was one of the more disingenuous components of Elicker’s campaign. 

In fact it was shockingly similar to far right tactics in yesterday’s Virginia governor’s race: “I ran into Matt Mackowiak, whose Fight for Tomorrow PAC had been on the air with a grim ad about how Democrats would ‘Detroit’—a verb, meaning ruin—Virginia. ‘That ad moved people by 5 points when it was shown,’ he said.”

posted by: wcproclaimer on November 6, 2013  4:58pm

To say that justin ran a clean or kind campaign is to ignore what I and many other saw. Elicker ran what was essentially a substanceless campaign, dressing up a handful of promises that he couldn’t fund (given his commitment to slashing the tax base) that only addressed the concerns of a few of the city’s neighborhoods. Toni’s victory is a victory for the working class. Most of Toni’s suporters couldn’t drop 370 bucks on her campaign at a moments notice, while Elicker’s support, which comes undeniably from the wealthiest portions of the city (Don’t argue look at the vote totals) had far more income on hand to donate to elickers campaign. Ultimately Toni won with the aid of hundreds of volunteers against a small cadre of private sector voices (stratton etc.) and inexperienced, unreliable, westville/east rock centric politicians (Hausladen, Dan Kops, Elicker himself) who represented the city’s elite, which feels the least of the pain from the nation’s economic stagnation and the mass federal budget cuts.

posted by: robn on November 6, 2013  5:07pm


Detroit’s biggest problem was waterfall payments that annually paid out to membership pension fund income gain in excess of their annual target. This defied the grade school logic of letting savings alone in up and down economies so the magic of compound interest can work.
New Haven’s problem is not as dire, but our employee pension funds are grossly underfunded; this is due to overly generous political promises and willfully unrealistic income expectations on the part of the BOA, the Mayor and the Pension Board which includes employee reps. They all kicked the can down the road. We may not be Detroit, but we could be Providence on the precipice of bankruptcy. Mayor-elect Harp is aware that this needs to be addressed and if we don’t, a bankruptcy judge will address it for us. Its not fair to citizens or to employees to pretend there isn’t a problem.

posted by: plannerman on November 6, 2013  5:08pm

Excellent comment Jonathan Hopkins, you capture my disappointment, ambivalence, and openness to being proved wrong well.

posted by: accountability on November 6, 2013  8:09pm


A businessman named Wendell Harp had a dispute with the state over the application of use tax law to real estate businesses. It was based on an asserted liability discovered during a routine audit. The dispute went through the court system. One lower court actually accepted Harp’s argument and ruled that he owed the state not $600,000 or $1 million, but zero dollars.

The legal issues were serious enough for the state Supreme Court to accept the case and settle the legal questions once and for all. By the time this years-long process reached its conclusion, Harp had cancer and soon died. The will has been probated and the family is negotiating a payment plan.

We, the state’s taxpayers, will receive $1 million for what was originally a $600,000 tax “bill” that Harp believed in good faith, and at least one court agreed with him, that he did not owe.

In what universe is that in any way a series of events that disqualify this businessman’s wife from public office?

Has your spouse ever bought something worth more than $25 on vacation and brought it home to use in Connecticut? Did s/he save a receipt and pay use taxes? Has your spouse paid use taxes on all out of state craigslist and Amazon purchases over $25?

If not, does that disqualify you from public office?

The tax issue was wildly and deliberately distorted by the candidates opposing Toni. They have staff and the ability to get the facts.

Now, it’s possible that the commenters on this site repeated the distortions out of ignorance of the facts rather than malice. I can’t possibly know that. I do know that this issue, and things like the false rumor that Toni lives in Bethany created a poisonous environment that has to be cleaned up.

Toni is accountable for the city’s performance going forward. That’s paramount. But we are all accountable for our role as citizens, too. This election is a great opportunity to move the city in a better direction. Let’s seize it.

posted by: jimjoebob on November 6, 2013  8:56pm

@ wcproclaimer: I would not argue that Elicker “ran a clean or kind campaign”—only that it was far less vicious than high-stakes political campaigns usually are. It may be difficult to see this in the aftermath of the emotions of the campaign season, but look around at any other high-stakes campaign n the whole of U.S. history; this was a church picnic by comparison.

While most of the people on the painful side of New Haven’s shocking class divide may justifiably feel invested in Harp’s victory, it would be an incredible distortion to portray the fundraising story of this campaign as Harp squeaking by on donated pennies scraped together by low-income New Havenites, while Elicker rolled around in wads of cash from the wine-and-cheese set. In fact, Harp outraised Elicker substantially, and her edge came not from New Havenites (Elicker outraised her there—though to be fair, relatively few of his contributions came from New Haven’s underclass), but rather on the strength of contributions from *outside* of New Haven.

And you can only say that Elicker benefitted from the support of “the city’s elite” if you define that term as referring to the city’s well-off white liberals. Meanwhile, Harp benefitted from the support of the *real* elites: the PACs, unions, city contractors, and Democratic Party bigwigs, including the Governor and both Senators.

I hope that you are correct that Harp’s victory will turn out to be a victory for New Haven’s working class. But my level of hope is not particularly high, because in the words of the great Molly Ivins, you gotta dance with them what brung you—and while it was the residents of New Haven’s most struggling neighborhoods who provided the crucial votes that gave Harp this victory, that’s not where the bulk of her campaign’s money and logistical support came from. It came from people and institutions whose primary goal is enhancing their own power and wealth, rather than helping those neighborhoods.

posted by: downtown dweller on November 6, 2013  9:28pm

Congratulations to Mayor Harp.

It’s pretty incredible that even now Harp supporters—accountability and Razzie—are attacking Justin’s supporters for being negative.  It was Harp’s own campaign that ran a push poll suggesting that Justin worked for George W. Bush, and Harp’s partisans eagerly ran with this.  Glasshouses, stones, and grace in victory.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 7, 2013  10:29am


Would you please stop trying to white-wash the historical timeline?

As noted before, the Supreme Court made their final ruling in 2003. Mr Harp passed away in 2011. (Let me know and I’ll again pull up the links.)

If the taxes will indeed be paid, I think that’s all anyone wants at this point. That and the building fees owed to the City.

As an elected representative, the Harps failure to pay their tax obligations,—and on time,—was a huge, scary red flag,—but not a character assassination. In general leaders should be super-responsible about their own personal obligations, if only to set a good example.

Anyway Mayor Harp has won, and most of us are now willing to give her a chance. Who knows, maybe she’ll do a great job!

posted by: Razzie on November 7, 2013  11:01am

Jonathan Hopkins—“Mean-spirited”‎
mean-spir·it·ed or mean·spir·it·ed adj. Having or characterized by a malicious or petty spirit.‎
adjective : feeling or showing a cruel desire to cause harm or pain.

Neither of those definitions makes any reference to “..a person in a position of power belittling people who are minding their own business and just trying to get by.” And neither definition makes any reference to “..a high-profile, very powerful and extremely rich career politician…” performing (or not performing their assigned duties. When I characterize the Elicker campaign’s talking points and propaganda as being mean-spirited” I have in mind the traditional dictionary definitions similar to the ones quoted above. I also do not feel that being rich or poor, or possessing a high paying, influential position has any bearing on whether a comment directed at that person is mean-spirited or not.

The election is over. Lets move on beyond the political caricatures [e.g. “scared of DeStefano”, “two-faced”, slumlord, tax cheat, etc.] that both sides presented. There is much work to be done.

posted by: anonymous on November 7, 2013  11:05am

“Harp’s money and logistical support came from people and institutions whose primary goal is enhancing their own power and wealth, rather than helping poor neighborhoods.”

Exactly. Until we have clean elections, as Elicker has modeled, these institutions—including suburban-based labor unions—will continue to use power to massively enrich themselves at the expense of the disinvested neighborhoods that are comprised of poor people, young people, and immigrants.

posted by: HewNaven on November 7, 2013  11:08am


Even if the rumor is false, Harp’s residence is still an issue to me. Many of her supporters made the claim that she understood the inner city better than her opponent. But, even if she doesn’t live in Bethany, does Conrad Drive really represent the inner city to you? I think by definition its on the outskirts of the city in a very wealthy neighborhood. Harp supporters have consistently delivered this contradictory narrative of Harp, that she is both “of the people” and extremely ” well off having earned her wealth.” To make matters worse, I was chastised for bringing up these class issues which should upset me as a poor resident. Should I stop talking about class now that Harp won the election?

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on November 7, 2013  1:41pm


Looks like NHI doesn’t want to post my original response to you so I’ll try again.

What is the relevance of describing how Renaissance Management got into tax trouble? I have never suggested that Toni Harp was responsible for getting Renaissance Management into their current situation. What I have done is question why she chooses to except a monthly check from a business that is the State’s largest tax delinquent while said business has yet to rectify the situation and Connecticut is in a huge financial hole. $25 isn’t exactly $1.1M - scale matters.

This issue is secondary though to her not paying income taxes for several years while simutaneously receiving a salary funded by tax payers. Then there is the issue of not paying city building fees to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars for the house you currently live in.

Those two issues are again secondary, at least to me, compared to things like Toni’s stance on the downtown 2-way street conversion, indifferent to zoning reform, campaign funding sources, composition of her economic team, among other things.

I think Elicker did a pretty good job of focusing the right amount of time on each of these issues. He spent the vast majority of his campaign focused on campaign finance reform, and issues in the city and ways of addressing them. He spent a small amount of time questioning her associations, and tax issues.


What is malicious about criticizing a public servant whose income is derived from tax dollars for not paying income taxes and building fees for the house you currently live in - both of which are true in Toni’s case?

Intent is important, but so is who the comments are directed at. When I say “McDonald’s food sucks”, my intent is to insult McDonalds, but that is hardly mean-spirited because of the two parties involved (some random guy and a multinational corporation). Regardless, there was still no malice intent behind Elicker’s legitimate criticism of Toni.