Today’s mayoral contest between 18-year incumbent John DeStefano Jr. and challenger Jeffrey Kerekes is a battle of “David Versus Goliath,” according to Kerekes.
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DeStefano, who is running for a record 10th term in office, has raised 16 times as much money as Kerekes and organized a campaign staff to knock on doors and get out the vote in each of the Elm City’s 30 wards. Though DeStefano beat Kerekes soundly in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary — he won 43.2 percent of the vote to Kerekes’ 22.7 percent — both candidates predicted that they would win Tuesday’s election in Monday afternoon interviews.
“We feel very confident that the citizens of New Haven will show their confidence and reelect the mayor,” said Danny Kedem, DeStefano’s campaign manager.
Similarly, Kerekes said he felt “really good” about his prospects and was confident of victory. If he manages to achieve high voter turnout, Kerekes said he expects to win in a landslide. In his weekly campaign newsletter, Kerekes asked supporters to “bring five friends” to polling stations today.
On the final day of campaigning, Kerekes stuck to the same anti-DeStefano rhetoric that has been the staple of his campaign since he announced his candidacy in June.
“I hear this constant refrain: people are fed up with the mayor,” he said. “Eighteen years is long enough.”
He added that he felt confident after hearing from “multiple sources” who leaked him internal polling data from the DeStefano camp. Kerekes said the results of those polls — from a “reputable polling firm,” Kerekes said — showed that he and DeStefano are virtually neck-and-neck heading into Election Day.
Kedem said Kerekes’ information was inaccurate, adding that the DeStefano campaign does have polling data but does not share it with the media.
That controversy was not the only one that played out on the last day of campaigning. Kerekes announced Monday that his campaign will have voter fraud and complaint forms at all polling stations Tuesday because of suspicions of wrongdoing by the DeStefano campaign.
“DeStefano has lied about his record, lied about [the departure of New Haven Police Department] Chief [Frank] Limon, and we don’t trust him to do the right thing on Election Day,” Kerekes said.
When asked to provide further basis for these allegations, Kerekes declined to elaborate. Kedem said while DeStefano’s campaign was glad Kerekes was being “civic-minded” in ensuring voter protection, the allegations of misconduct were baseless.
For Clifton Graves, who lost to both Kerekes and DeStefano in the Democratic primary, the election presented a “clear and distinctive” choice about the Elm City’s future leadership because the two candidates are so different. Though DeStefano faces the political burden of a long incumbency, he said, the mayor will likely retain his position.
“But I think the race will be closer than DeStefano and his backers wants it to be,” Graves added.
DeStefano was first elected mayor in 1993 in a race against two-term incumbent mayor John Daniels, who beat DeStefano in the 1989 mayoral election.