New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced Monday night what everyone already knew: He will seek re-election to a record ninth term in office.
Speaking at the Columbus Family Academy in Fair Haven, DeStefano outlined his campaign priorities, including prison re-entry reform, youth street outreach programs, narcotics enforcement and education.
“The campaign will be about a simple thing — articulating what our strengths are and how we move forward together,” DeStefano said.
The mayor’s announcement came before a crowd of State Democratic Party leaders, including gubernatorial hopeful Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz ’83, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney and members of the Board of Aldermen. Still, it was a mere act of ceremony, as DeStefano first confirmed in October that he hopes to spend at least another term in City Hall.
Though the campaign platform he outlined Monday was largely a repeat of promises he made in his State of the City address two weeks ago, audience members responded with enthusiastic cheers to DeStefano’s speech describing the changes he hopes to usher in before leaving office.
“The city is in such a different place than 15 years ago — or even five years ago,” he said. “The prison re-entry problem is not one we had 10 years ago, but it is clearly a problem now that needs to be addressed. … Even the challenge in the schools now is different — we have come a long way, but there is still work to be done.”
DeStefano spoke specifically about his plans to temper crime, a pressing matter in light of the recent spike in gun violence across the city. New Haven saw its fourth homicide of the year on Friday.
“Until we deal with the issue of people coming back from prison into our communities and give them a positive choice, we will continue to witness violence,” DeStefano said. “This is not about being soft, it is about being smart.”
And attendees seemed convinced.
“He has fought crime and he has won,” Blumenthal said. “He has fought for education and he has won. He has won for the people of the city of New Haven and that is the reason that he will win come this November.”
Absent from the audience were any of the mayor’s detractors, including former state Rep. Bill Dyson, who said last month that he is considering challenging DeStefano in the upcoming mayoral election. Dyson said in January that although he understands that the mayor has made contributions to the city during his 15-year tenure, he questions whether New Haven might be better off without him.
“We are in an environment that is looking bleaker by the day,” he said. “But I want to do what I can to make sure some of that bleakness is removed.”
But at the event on Monday, Bysiewicz maintained that the current bleak economic times are exactly the reason DeStefano warrants another term in office.
“Mayor DeStefano is passionate about making city government work for people,” Bysiewicz said. “In this very difficult economic environment that we are in, we need him more than ever.”
When asked by a reporter if he would seek another term in 2012, DeStefano would not speculate. “I’ll take it two years at a time,” he said.
If he wins re-election, DeStefano would be the longest-serving elected mayor in New Haven history.