Yalie ex-alderman to run for state office

While the mayoral and aldermanic campaigns came to an end Tuesday, a campaign for statewide office is just heating up.

Former Ward 9 Alderman Gerald “Gerry” Garcia ’94 SOM ’01 announced last week his plans to run for state secretary of the state in the 2010 election. If elected, Garcia intends to boost voter turnout by pushing to make Connecticut an early voting state; make the secretary of the state’s work more transparent; and make it easier for small businesses to open in Connecticut, according to his campaign Web site. In an early voting state, citizens can mail in a paper ballot several weeks before Election Day.

“Not enough people have been stepping up,” Ward 15 Alderman Joseph Rodriguez said. “But Gerry’s a local kid, and it’s time we had that sort of representation at the state level.”

Garcia did not return multiple e-mail and telephone requests for comment.

In addition to overseeing elections across the state, the secretary of the state also enforces the state’s business laws, a role Garcia is suited for given his business experience, he says in a video message on his Web site.

“Being a small-business owner makes me want more out of the secretary of the state’s office,” Garcia said in the video.

After representing Ward 9 between 1996 and 2001 and receiving his business degree from the School of Management, Garcia worked at the now-bankrupt New York investment bank Lehman Brothers. Since returning to New Haven in 2006 from New York City, Garcia has worked as a small-business financial adviser, according to his campaign Web site.

Garcia, 38, was born in California. Shortly after his birth, his Jewish mother and Puerto Rican father moved the family to New Haven, where Garcia attended the city’s public schools. As a Yale undergraduate, Garcia was president of Despierta Boricua, a service and social organization for Puerto Ricans at Yale, and the Yale chapter of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi.

Rodriguez said that in several past meetings with Garcia he encouraged the former alderman to run for secretary of the state. Rodriguez also said he plans to lobby on Garcia’s behalf when Garcia seeks the endorsement of the state’s Hispanic Democratic Caucus — which consists of Hispanic lawmakers in Connecticut.

“Gerry is sending a great message to our younger Latinos: when it comes to making a difference, there’s no barrier you can’t cross,” Rodriguez said.

Ward 6 Alderwoman Dolores Colón, also of Hispanic descent, said she believes Garcia would inspire the state’s Hispanic youth if elected.

“If he’s elected, and he keeps a clean record, he could be a great role model,” Colón said. “I wish him the best of luck.”

Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2006, has so far declined to endorse Garcia’s bid, City Hall Spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said in an e-mail Monday. While she called Garcia a “smart, civic-minded individual who would certainly do a fine job as secretary of [the] state,” she said DeStefano thinks it is too early in the race to make an endorsement.

One initiative Garcia undertook while he was Ward 9 alderman was the failed “Promise to New Haven,” on which he collaborated with two other Yale alumni on the Board of Aldermen, then-Ward 1 Alderman Julio Gonzalez ’99 and then-Ward 2 Alderman Jelani Lawson ’96. The so-called “Yale Three’s” proposal would have replaced the Board’s 30 part-time aldermen with 15 full-time legislators.

Garcia also worked with then-Ward 1 Alderman Joshua Civin ’96 LAW ’03 to introduce the state’s first living-wage legislation, which became law in April 1997. The legislation aimed to reduce homelessness by pegging the minimum wage to the cost of local housing.

Garcia is currently the only official Democratic candidate for secretary of the state, but Mayorga said there will likely be other candidates if the current secretary of the state, Susan Bysiewicz ’83, decides not to run for reelection. Bysierwicz told several media organizations earlier this year that she is considering run for governor in the 2010 election.

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in February indicates that Bysiewicz is favored to win the Democratic nomination for governor, though she is trailing incumbent Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell by six percentage points, according to a poll Bysiewicz’s staff conducted in October.

New Haven has not sent a resident to statewide constitutional office — which also includes the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer and comptroller — since Clarine Riddle, who was the attorney general from 1989 to 1991, according to the state government’s Web site.

Correction: Nov. 7, 2009

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of official candidates for secretary of the state. While Gerald Garcia ’94 SOM ’01 is currently the only official Democratic candidate, two Republicans, Richard Abbate and Corey Brinson, are also running.

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