Votes Cost $36 To $95

Mayoral candidate Kermit Carolina got the biggest bang for his buck in this week’s Democratic primary election, raising less than $40 per vote. Henry Fernandez took in nearly $100 for each ballot cast for him.

The other two candidates—Justin Elicker and Toni Harp—made use of campaign cash with about equal efficiency. Elicker raised $49.95 per vote. Harp raised about $43.32, counting the $30,000 that the American Federation of State, County, and Federal Employees (AFSCME) put into her victory.

Those numbers, and the maps below, emerge from post-primary parsing of the results of Tuesday’s election.

Harp, a state senator, won the Democratic primary on Tuesday, capturing 50 percent of the vote (or 49.77 percent, to be precise). Elicker, an East Rock alderman, came in second, with about 23 percent of the vote. Fernandez and Carolina were third and fourth, respectively. They promptly dropped out of the race. Elicker is continuing to run against Harp in the Nov. 5 general election as an independent candidate.

Some simple math reveals the approximate amount each candidate raised per vote earned. Note that the chart above is calculated according to how much candidates raised by Sept. 1. The precise amount they spent won’t be known until the next campaign finance disclosure deadline. Click here and here for an analysis of previous campaign finance filings.

Harp raised $287,423 including $26,150 from committees. AFSCME put in another $30,000 to convince New Haveners to vote for her. She earned 7,327 votes.

Fernandez raised $265,361, including $7,750 from committees. He won 2,782 votes.

Elicker raised $170,693, including money from the Democracy Fund, the city’s public campaign financing program. He captured 3,417 votes.

Carolina raised $43,110, including Democracy Fund dollars. He earned 1,195 votes.

Ward-by-ward election results indicate where in the city each candidate found support.

Only Elicker and Harp won the most votes of any candidate in any one ward. Elicker captured the most votes in wards in East Rock, downtown, Westville and the East Shore. The rest of the wards went to Toni Harp.

Since New Haven doesn’t have a winner-take-all electoral college system, you have to drill down a little further to determine where candidates really found support.

The answer, for Harp, is all over town. She earned over 100 votes in almost every ward in the city, with the exception of Ward 10, where Elicker is the alderman, and Ward 1, Yale University. Harp performed especially well in Westville, Wooster Square, Bella Vista/Fair Haven Heights, Dixwell, and Newhallville.

Harp did best in Newhallville’s Ward 20, where she captured a whopping 569 votes. She won 423 votes in Upper Westville, her home turf. No other candidate cracked 400 votes in any ward.

Elicker captured most of his votes in East Rock, Westville, and the East Shore. Vote totals show that he had little penetration in the Hill, Fair Haven, upper Newhallville, and West Rock. Elicker did best in Westville’s Ward 25, where he collected 359 votes.

Fernandez also did well in Westville’s Ward 25, which had the highest voter turnout in the city. He found 335 votes there. He had fairly widespread, if tepid, support elsewhere. He didn’t collect over 200 votes in any other ward.

Carolina struggled throughout the city. He had the most support in West Rock, Newhallville, Dixwell, Beaver Hills, and Westville. He cracked 100 votes only in Ward 20, where he picked up 141 ballots.

Not surprisingly, Ward 20 also figures prominently on the overall voter turnout map. The Newhallville ward had the second highest turnout in the city, thanks to a grassroots vote-pulling operation headed up by Alderwoman Delphine Clyburn and the Democratic ward committee’s co-chairs.

Voter turnout was the lowest at Yale and in the Hill, West Rock, Fair Haven, and Quinnipiac Meadows.

If you look at voter turnout as a percentage of registered Democrats in each ward, Ward 20 drops lower in the rankings, an indication that the ward has a large number of registered voters. Ward 19, which straddles Newhallville and East Rock, rises up to second place, with a 46.85 percent turnout of registered Democrats on Tuesday.

Westville’s “Fighting 25th” remains the champ in both metrics, boasting 1,057 votes cast by 52.35 percent of the ward’s registered Democrats.

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posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on September 13, 2013  12:25pm

The issue of money in elections is a serious one. The amount of money contributors are allowed to give and the places from which that money comes is important (or should be) for voters and citizens.  I fail to see the importance (or relevance for that matter) of articles/analysis(?) such as this, however.

What does it REALLY tell us about the influence of money in our elections, while rasing the perception of telling us something worth knowing?

Someone here set me straight if you think I’m missing something. I eagerly await your reply.

posted by: HewNaven on September 13, 2013  12:31pm

The only difference between Elicker’s $50/vote and Harp’s $44/vote is that Elicker did not solicit money from contractors, special interests, PACs, corporations, etc.; Harp did that. All of Elicker’s donations are from ordinary citizens. Elicker also capped his donations at $370 meaning that he had to do a lot more work on the ground to raise money. Finally, roughly 80% of Elicker’s money came from residents. Only 30% of Harp’s money came from residents, the rest from mainly white, suburban interests who wish to profit from a potential Harp administration. There’s no positive spin on these numbers. They are a sign of things to come should Harp be elected. City for Sale!

posted by: Razzie on September 13, 2013  12:38pm

Great analysis, Paul. This should put to rest the Elicker whining about undue influence of big money. Both Elicker and Sen Harp spent roughly the same amount of money per vote—Sen Harp’s campaign message simply resonated with more New Haveners than Elicker.

I know that Elicker’s East Rock base would like to think that their votes are worth more than any other part of the city. But sadly, each vote is worth the same, regardless of where you live in New Haven. The voters in the Hill, Dixwell, Newhallville, Dwight and Fair Haven (which were ignored by Elicker’s campaign) have as much to add to the fabric of this city as East Rockers. Unless Elicker abandons his “fortress East Rock” strategy, the results in the general election will remain the same. It ain’t about race—it’s about money and place!

posted by: TheMadcap on September 13, 2013  12:55pm

Jeez The Hill’s turnout is low. Fair Haven as well.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on September 13, 2013  12:58pm

Tom, good job on the analysis.  This is certainly useful when considering the impact of money on an election.  It clearly demonstrates, as history has taught us in each of the McMahon elections, that money is not everything.  To understand this, we need to take Senator Harp - the most well known candidate - out of the equation and compare Messrs. Fernandez and Elicker.

Arguably, Mr. Fernandez had more name recognition that Mr. Elicker at the start of the race.  Mr. Fernandez raised more money than Mr. Elicker, yet he failed to receive as many votes.  I understand that this does not fit neatly with the analysis that money per se buys elections, but it is a good starting point for an honest discussion about the role of money in politics. 

The same could be shown in the 2012 presidential election when President Obama was outspent by Governor Romney.  Indeed, there are many examples that belie the notion that money buys elections. 

The importance of this graphic might demonstrate the uphill battle that Mr. Elicker will face if he believes that money buys votes.  It will increase the amount he feels he needs to raise to win and will give him cover should he lose.  He and his supporters will be able to say that she raised more money and that was the reason she won.  But then, he’d only be able to make that argument if he felt he could buy votes for $50 a piece, which would be an indictment of his thought of New Haven residents.

posted by: robn on September 13, 2013  12:59pm

Incredibly impressive breakdown NHI!
If one looks at Carolinas and Fernandez’s vote maps and notes ward by ward overlap in support for the other two candidates, it provides some glimpse about how those votes will split.

Would love to see some kind of historical data analysis also, but this is really top notch.

Its very interesting to observe that in the Harp/Elicker horse race, with all of Harp’s out-of-town footsoldiers she didn’t gain an advantage (I know there’ll be objectors to this statement, but Bob Proto finally went on record with the outsider thing.).

posted by: LoveNH on September 13, 2013  1:12pm

Superb and informative empirical analysis of voting patterns across the city.  This is the type of article that makes me thank my stars for the NHI and its work.  The fighting 25th may be the best phrase of the week! 

This analysis should help Elicker further refine and target his message of smart, ethical city government.  C’mon supporters of Fernandez, Carolina, and all you independents - get on the Elicker bandwagon and fight against the self-admitted pay-to-play machine of Harp and her cronies.

posted by: citoyen on September 13, 2013  1:57pm

I’m not sure what an analysis of “bang for the buck” is really supposed to measure, especially since it is based on dollars raised rather than dollars spent.  The one meaningful conclusion I can draw here is that –- while Henry gave lip service to the Democracy Fund but said he would not participate in it because he needed to be able to compete against Toni Harp’s money –- in the end, his high-donation money total did him little good, while Justin’s money, raised *by* participating in the Democracy Fund, *did* allow him to compete against Harp, at least better than Henry did.

The real story here (which probably should have merited an alternative headline such as “Analysis of votes distributed over the city”) are the fascinating maps, which make so vividly graphic -– as opposed to the chart published on election night -– where the various candidates’ strengths and weaknesses lay.  Here there’s probably a lot to say, but again the thing that pops out (at least to me) is about Henry –- that he did so poorly in the heart of Fair Haven.

posted by: anonymous on September 13, 2013  2:53pm

Harp was crushed in Ward 25, overall, and it’s a Ward that the ultimate winner almost always takes.  Someone should consider mounting a write-in campaign against their Alder, who seems to be one of Harp’s key staffers.

posted by: Razzie on September 13, 2013  3:19pm

@ Anon

Ward 25’s turnout and participation in municipal elections are always epic. It bodes well for the future of New Haven to have wards that show that level of participation. However, I don’t find anything negative in that ward’s turnout or voting pattern as you seem to imply. The top 3 contestants gathered more than 300 votes each (the last place finisher did quite well also). Why the call for retribution against the Ward Alderman. If anything, I would thank him for helping to bring out such a brilliant display of civic engagement.

posted by: LuvNewHaven on September 13, 2013  3:20pm

Any chance of someone figuring out how many votes Toni would have gotten, based on this analysis, if only the money she raised from individual New Haven donors is looked at?

Clearly her external money drove her numbers up, this analysis shows that in the clearest possible light.

posted by: LuvNewHaven on September 13, 2013  3:35pm

So if AFSCME dumped $30,000 into Harp’s campaign at the last minute, that means they bought Toni about 700 votes in this election.

I would love to see someone take the entire sum of money that Toni and Justin raised from out-of-towners, and divide that by their per-vote-cost, and see how many votes their out of town contributors bought them.

If you cut out the votes that just committees and AFSCME alone bought the Harp campaign, she would only be at 6,000 votes.  That’s not counting all the contractors and current city employees that donated to her campaign.

If you add those 1,300 paid-for votes to Elicker, he ends up with about 4,700 votes.

So really, money aside, they Harp campaign might have been only 1,000 votes ahead of Justin.

Carolina and Fernandez both got about 4,000 votes together.  Even with Toni’s paid-for votes, there are enough registered Dems in New Haven to put Justin over the top in November!

That’s not even including the independent voters!

posted by: TheMadcap on September 13, 2013  4:14pm


Fair Haven was not ignored by Elicker’s campaign. There were numerous canvassing efforts there. In fact Fair Haven was one of the neighborhoods Elicker’s team specifically sent volunteers to on election day,563
(and if you go back through most facebook photos there’s numerous Fair Haven canvassings. East Rock, Fair Haven, Fair Haven Heights, East Shore and Westville were basically the 5 neighborhoods that were always canvassed)
Apparently Fair Haven wasn’t too motivated by any candidate given the low turnout.

posted by: robn on September 13, 2013  4:25pm


I don’t know about individual donors, but only 21% of Harp’s donations came from in-town according to NHI reporting from the election filings. 76% of Elickers donations came from in town.

So if you were buying votes with in town money, Elicker wins hands down. As others have noted in this forum, money doesn’t directly buy votes (but it does purchase a lot of propaganda directing voters thoughts away from who’s currying favors with their candidate.

posted by: LuvNewHaven on September 13, 2013  6:40pm


So if you look at money coming in from New Haven ONLY, at the cost-per-vote as calculated by NHI, then Harp’s money would have equaled 1,538 votes, whereas Justin’s would have equaled 2,597 votes.

There you have it.  Take away the money from outside interests, and Harp would have lost, BIG-TIME.

posted by: beyonddiscussion on September 14, 2013  1:21am

In all respects the coverage and analysis of this election by the NHI was outstanding. I could not believe how fast election night results were posted on this site. As a community we are very fortunate to have such a fast, insightful and accurate media source.

posted by: robn on September 14, 2013  9:37am

Long story short, Harp had behind her the funding of many wealthy out of town businesses, the entire Democratic party apparatus, the entire state union apparatus and the financial support of national unions and dollar for dollar, her dollars went no further than Elicker’s. This tells me that Elicker is more convincing to those he reached.

Must trike a tinge of fear in the heart of Boss Proto in East Haven. If more NH Harp voters knew Boss Proto was calling the shots from the suburbs, they might vote otherwise.

posted by: Razzie on September 14, 2013  5:55pm

@ Robn—“... dollar for dollar, her dollars went no further than Elicker’s. This tells me that Elicker is more convincing to those he reached. “

Huh??? This makes no sense to me. Do you mean he reached 1/2 as many people, but was more convincing to them than she was to her voters? iIt seems to me that her dollars went further if she reached twice as many voters, and if she reached voters in the areas that Elicker neglected (Dwight, Dixwell / Newhallville, the Hill, Fair Haven). From the graphics it is clear that “Richie Rich” aka the man from New Canaan, chose to spend his money in East Rock and the most affluent areas of the city. If he doesn’t spend his money in The Hill, Fair Haven, etc., how does he expect to get any votes?

posted by: Eddie on September 14, 2013  6:07pm


The article clearly says that Harp’s dollars went further.  If we accept these dollars per votes as the constant rate for every candidate, then Harp was quite a bit more efficient.  For example, to earn the same number of votes as Harp, Justin would have had to of raised $48,578.01 more than Harp raised.  This is nearly 1/3 of all the money that Justin actually raised.

The conclusion is the opposite from the one that you draw.  Harp raised less money for each vote she won.  Being a Harp supporter, I’m sure Proto is quite a happy with this result.

posted by: robn on September 14, 2013  6:33pm

Oh I’m sorry EDDIE. With the backing of an army of outsiders Harp was about 15% more efficient per vote. Better than, but not the opposite of what I wrote.

posted by: Eddie on September 15, 2013  11:29am


Being 15% more efficient per vote while winning over twice as many votes, strikes me as pretty significant.  But, I think we agree that the many volunteers who worked for Toni account for some of this efficiency.  Of course, I disagree with characterizing these volunteers as an army of outsiders.  Again, you have not produced any evidence to support this assertion.  No, a quote from Proto saying, “Hundreds of union people hit the streets for Toni today” is not evidence that these volunteers are outsiders.  Thousands of people affiliated with unions live in New Haven. 

We do now have one excellent measure of the depth of Toni’s in-town support.  Toni was able to collect signatures to be on the ballot at least twice as fast as any other candidate in the race.  Every signature verified in New Haven was collected by a volunteer in New Haven.  Yes, this was achieved by an army of volunteers.  No, it was not achieved by an army of outsiders.

posted by: robn on September 15, 2013  2:16pm


That sword of proof cuts both ways. If the army of outsiders is speculation, so is your lack-of-outsiders theory. Of corse I can prove at least one outside volunteer; Boss Proto who just happens to be in charge of unions mostly comprised by suburbanites.

posted by: Eddie on September 16, 2013  7:47am


Thanks for admitting you don’t have proof to support the army of outsiders theory.

Again we actually do have a measure of the volunteers that are from New Haven.  Every signature that was collected for Toni to be on the ballot and was verified in New Haven was circulated by someone in New Haven.  Granted this is just a snapshot but it is much more systematic proof that you have offered.

posted by: Mark Firla on September 16, 2013  9:51am

I am thrilled by the idea that New Haven needs to stand alone in it’s struggle to improve and realize it’s full potential. We don’t need outsiders to come here and take the jobs that are our birthright. We don’t need the opinions, thoughts, ideas or energy that may come from someone who only spends a couple of thousand hours a year in the city, if they are so callous to sleep in another town.
I am also glad to see the growing recognition in these comments that some neighborhoods, and even parts of some neighborhoods are more “New Haven” than others, and if you live in Newhallville or East Rock you have a better understanding of the issues facing the city than someone who recently moved to Downtown.
But what truly warms my heart is the argument being made that some donated dollars are more pure than others, based on where the person giving lives. I would add my voice to that clarion call, but I believe that we should follow it out to it’s logical conclusion because if we do not, we risk falling prey to an even more insidious peril. Although residency is incredibly important, where and how the money is made, and to whom the goods and services are sold have to be figured into the equation, if not, the campaign dollars may as well come with a “to-do” list attached. If you live in New Haven but work in Hartford, how does that differ from it’s corollary? If you live and work in New Haven, but your work or employer does business outside the walls, that too must be acknowledged, how can anyone be sure you are not tainted by your contact with the larger world, your perspective or desires somehow perverted? You must live in New Haven(I would argue be born here) work in New Haven,producing goods or services from materials that also come from the Elm City, doing the majority if not entirety of your business with New Haven residents in order to donate money to a campaign. Simple. You also must work in the private sector, since everyone knows public sector folks are biased.

posted by: robn on September 16, 2013  10:18am


The New Haven government is supposed to represent the interests of the population of New Haven, not outsiders with economic interests in the city. Harps 80% outside donations may be legal, but I believe they’re unethical and discredit her as a candidate for mayor.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on September 16, 2013  11:49am

Mark F,

So if in the next US Presidential Campaign, one candidate raises 80% of its contributions from individuals, corporations, PACs, etc. that are based outside the US (say China), that wouldn’t raise any red flags for you? Its a globalized economy after all, so what’s the big deal?

Constituents are the voters, voting is determined by residency. Of course commuters, workers, visitors, outside investors, etc. have to be accommodated, but they are secondary concerns to the people that live in the city - that is an extremely uncontroversial stance.

I agree that some of the rhetoric about campaign finance has lacked nuance and your point is well taken, but you have to realize that no candidate raised all of their money in New Haven, some portion of everyone’s funding has come from outside the city, which is to be expected. However, there is a valid concern when one candidate raises 75-80% of their money from outside the place where they are running for office (whether it be at the local, regional, state or national level). 10-30% from outside sources - sure, even 50% is understandable, but 80%?

posted by: Mark Firla on September 16, 2013  1:41pm

One of the things that has troubled me the most this political season is the overwhelming parochialism of much of the discourse, both in the comments of the Independent and that of the candidates. While the current issue is campaign donations, the charges levied throughout the campaign on a multitude of issues have had the same tone. Most of New Haven’s challenges are regional, be it prison re-entry, homelessness, mental health, poverty, immigration or our tax exempt property. Additionally, the solution to many problems will most likely come through some sort of either state or region level partnership.
The same voices in New Haven that disparage “outside money” have all too frequently already been heard decrying “outsiders” knocking on doors or volunteering in some other capacity, and I think that’s wrong. I care who the mayor of East Haven is, even though I live in New Haven because issues of civil rights and police overstepping their authority are important to me. Is it immoral for me to act on that belief either through volunteering my time, or contributing money to a candidate? The only thing that will get us out of the collective mess we are in either locally, nationally or globally, is reaching out to each other, finding consensus, and acting together. I’m not terribly interested in some straw man discussion about Chinese corporations, or global PAC’s. I worry that predetermining which voices are “legitimate” is divisive and the opposite of what we need. New Haven has some difficult choices ahead, with regard to debt, pension obligations, the Board of Ed, zoning, taxes and more and I’ll be shocked if we don’t look for help to the outside, or need to trust many different constituencies at home.Of course the city government is supposed to advance the residents interests, but we do not live in a bubble. I think everyone can tone the rhetoric down, and figure out what we have in common without dividing ourselves further.

posted by: robn on September 16, 2013  2:26pm


In a city with a problem history of patronage spending resulting in some of the the highest property taxes rates in the nation, YES it IS immoral for financially interested outsiders to donate time and money to swing the results of our election in their favor.