As a Democrat in a solidly Democratic district, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro is generally considered to have a rather safe job. In 2002, she was elected to a seventh term in Congress with almost two-thirds of the vote — and that was her closest race in eight years.
But with candidates from both the Green and Republican parties planning on running serious campaigns against her this year, DeLauro said in an interview last week that she is not taking anything for granted.
“In terms of a formal apparatus, we haven’t established a formal campaign,” DeLauro said. “But we take the campaign very, very seriously.”
While neither the Republicans nor the Greens will formally select their nominees until later this spring, two New Haven residents — Republican Richter Elser ’81 and Green Party member Ralph Ferrucci — are likely to challenge DeLauro in November.
Elser, a businessman and gay-rights activist who ran against DeLauro two years ago, earned about 30 percent of the vote in 2002 and said yesterday that he is “certainly seen as the underdog.”
But Elser — who once owned Richter’s, a bar on Chapel Street, and sold the Tibwin Grill during his first run for Congress — said he believed he could earn the votes of many in the greater New Haven area who lean Republican but have voted for DeLauro in the past. Elser said he would focus on DeLauro’s record, which he said was unimpressive given her long-time service in Congress.
“I’m still much more interested in issues, and I think that’s where Rosa is truly most vulnerable,” said Elser, who also is chairman of the New Haven Republican Town Committee. “Her record does not hold up to close scrutiny. Once people get beyond her public relations glitz, there’s really not much substance there.”
While Elser will attempt to build on his experience in 2002, Green Party hopeful Ralph Ferrucci is trying to run a very different campaign from the one he ran last year — when he ran unsuccessfully against New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. as a candidate of the Guilty Party.
Last November, Ferrucci was virtually a one-man campaign team, earning about 15 percent of the vote on a budget of $850. In his congressional race, his campaign will seek to raise over $100,000 and set up volunteer coordinators in several cities throughout the district.
In 2002, Green congressional nominee Charlie Pillsbury ’72 earned five percent of the vote against DeLauro.
Ferrucci — who will seek the Green Party nomination at a convention next month — said he would focus his campaign on the economy and the war in Iraq. Although DeLauro, like Ferrucci, opposed the war in Iraq, the Green Party candidate said he questioned the congresswoman’s convictions.
“There was so much opposition here, she had to oppose the war,” said Ferrucci, an artist and delivery man.
Yet Ferrucci, like Elser, will likely face a very uphill battle against an incumbent who will almost certainly have more funding and more name recognition. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which tracks congressional races across the country, lists DeLauro’s seat as “solid Democratic” and there are few indications that her district will receive significant attention from the two national parties.
Both state senators and the six state representatives from New Haven — all Democrats — will also be up for reelection this fall, although it is unclear how many will face challenges. In addition, Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd is running for a fifth term in November.