DeStefano scores dual victories

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New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. won two major victories in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, handily defeating challenger Sherri Killins while leading several allies to seats on the Board of Aldermen.

DeStefano, who will not be challenged by any major candidates in November’s general election, is now all but assured of winning a sixth term as mayor after defeating Killins with 64 percent of the vote, according to early returns. But his victory was made even more overwhelming because of the success of his supporters in aldermanic races, as 15 of the 17 candidates DeStefano endorsed — including five running against Democratic incumbents — won the party’s nomination.

In a victory speech at the Playwright, DeStefano said his “team” across the ballot and throughout the city had accomplished a significant victory.

“The Democrats in New Haven put together a great aldermanic slate for us, and we’re going to work together to achieve our goals,” DeStefano said.

After thanking his supporters, DeStefano said he and his supporters needed to bring to the state capital, as well as to New Haven, an agenda focusing on safer neighborhoods, increased homeownership and better opportunities for working families. DeStefano has played an increasingly public role in state and national affairs in recent years, fueling speculation that he plans to mount a bid for governor in 2006.

“The fight for a level playing field needs to be taken to the state,” DeStefano said.

Killins, the former CEO of the urban development group Empower New Haven, said after the votes came in that she was pleased with how her campaign performed with “little organization, little money and little time.” Killins, who said she would likely run again for political office, said she would not offer her symbolic support to DeStefano in the general election.

“I still think he has no agenda for the people of New Haven,” Killins said.

According to preliminary results, DeStefano carried all 30 of the city’s aldermanic wards, including Yale-dominated Ward 1, where he won 116 votes to Killins’ 13. In Ward 22, where students in Ezra Stiles, Morse, Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges vote, pastor Drew King — who had the support of Yale’s labor unions — defeated incumbent Mae Ola Riddick in a tight race.

Elsewhere, the defeat of incumbents Kevin Diaz, Willie Greene and Brian Jenkins removed three of the loudest critics of the DeStefano administration, replacing them with candidates who ran with significant support from the mayor’s campaign. Jenkins, who helped coordinate Killins’ campaign, has used his role as chairman of the board’s Black and Hispanic Caucus to challenge DeStefano on a number of issues.

Babz Rawls-Ivy, the candidate who defeated Jenkins in Ward 28, said her victory revealed a desire for change in her neighborhood.

“I think people decided that they are ready to work in partnership with other people,” Rawls-Ivy said. “They don’t want any more excuses about why things can’t be done in their community.”

Early results showed two supporters of the mayor defeated in close races — incumbent Alderwoman Lindy Lee Gold in Ward 25, who was unseated by Sergio Rodriguez, and Mike McCarthy in Ward 9, who lost to Michael Smart. Five Democratic nominees for aldermen will face challenges from Green or Republican candidates in November.

Alyssa Rosenberg ’06, a DeStefano volunteer, said most of the mayor’s supporters had been successful because of their commitment to public service.

“I think that the mayor and his team — have articulated an incredibly strong vision of what New Haven should look like,” Rosenberg said.

Yet the mayor won by a smaller margin than many of his supporters had hoped, which DeStefano campaign manager Shonu Gandhi ’03 attributed to the mayor’s willingness to challenge incumbent aldermen. Gandhi, a former Yale Daily News columnist, also said she thought many voters in wards without aldermanic elections stayed home because they felt the mayoral election would not be close.

“All day, when we phone-banked, we had supporters say, ‘It doesn’t matter. He’s going to win,’” Gandhi said.

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