DeStefano, Kerekes earn endorsements

With less than two weeks until the Nov. 8 mayoral election, the past week has seen a flurry of endorsements for each of the candidates in the city’s mayoral race.

Since last Wednesday, nine-term incumbent Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has received endorsements from influential community organizations as well as from Gov. Dannel Malloy, while challenger Jeffrey Kerekes has gained the support of Ward 8 Alderman Michael Smart and former Ward 10 Alderman Allan Brison. Kerekes said some of DeStefano’s endorsements are unexpected since the entities issuing them have been critical of the mayor in the past, but DeStefano’s campaign manager Danny Kedem said the mayor’s endorsers have chosen to endorse him because they believe he is the better option of the two candidates.

Adding to the mayor’s momentum, former mayoral candidate and outspoken DeStefano critic Anthony Dawson will announce his endorsement of DeStefano at a press conference Friday, according to a press release from DeStefano’s campaign. Kerekes said this endorsement was “surprising” given Dawson’s past criticisms of the mayor’s leadership and the controversy surrounding his handling of the recent resignation of New Haven Police Department Chief Frank Limon, which Kerekes said exemplifies the type of dishonesty that Dawson campaigned against.

“[Dawson] was against cronyism and backroom dealing, those kinds of things were clearly on his campaign literature, so I would ask him to clearly articulate why backroom dealings are okay now,” Kerekes said. “Only three days ago we had a 13-year-old killed and [Dawson] was going around saying we have to stop the murder of our children, but then DeStefano does nothing.”

But Kedem said he believes Dawson shares “inherent values and principles” with the mayor and wanted to support somebody similar to himself. He added that Dawson was pleased with the selection of Dean Esserman, a former assistant chief of the NHPD, as Limon’s replacement.

“Elections are a choice, and of the two candidates [Dawson] views the mayor as a clear choice for building and sustaining a stronger New Haven,” Kedem said.

Dawson could not be reached for comment.

The Greater New Haven Clergy Association, a collection of black ministers traditionally considered an important influence on the black vote in New Haven, announced its support for DeStefano’s campaign earlier this week despite backing Dawson in the primary. Kerekes said he was surprised by the GNHCA’s decision. He added that he was not invited to speak with the group before they made their decision.

Kerekes said the group supported Dawson when the ex-candidate’s campaign literature accused DeStefano of creating a “war zone” of a city, and said he didn’t understand why only a few weeks later they would “flip-flop so easily.”

But Smart, who announced his endorsement of Kerekes on Oct. 22, said he does not have confidence in DeStefano’s ability to lead.

“Under the leadership of Mayor John DeStefano I have watched taxes increase, unemployment rise, violent crime escalate and the dropout rate in our high schools steadily become worse,” Smart said. “Clearly, New Haven can do better.”

He added that DeStefano’s handling of Limon’s resignation is an example of DeStefano’s “problem [of not] being honest” with New Haven residents. Brison cited similar reasons for his endorsement of Kerekes, and said he endorsed Kerekes because of Kerekes’ ability to handle the city budget and tackle issues of “patronage and cronyism” within the government.

Kerekes announced Wednesday that if elected he will create an “Inspector General Department” that will be tasked with “weeding out corruption, waste and questionable practices” that DeStefano administration’s has allowed to persist.

Kedem said that DeStefano’s campaign is “happy that people are civically engaged and interested in talking about the issues,” adding that it seems Smart and Brison feel “more of an affinity” for Kerekes.

Some of Kerekes’ other endorsements include former Hamden High School principal Gary Highsmith, former New Haven Advocate editor and Yale Journalism Initiative coordinator Mark Oppenheimer and city attorney Michael Jefferson. DeStefano, meanwhile, has been backed by the Building Trades of Greater New Haven, two Service Employees International Union groups, three aldermen and Local 825 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, among others.

The election will take place on Nov. 8.

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