After 20 years in office, John DeStefano Jr., New Haven’s longest-serving mayor, will face fierce competition to hold onto his post this November — Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, an environmental consultant and two-time East Rock alderman, has announced his candidacy for the job.
The chair of the board’s City Services and Environmental Policy Committee and a member of the Finance and Legislation committees, Elicker will officially announce his candidacy tonight at 7 p.m. at Manjares, a coffee shop on Whalley Avenue. At the event, Elicker will give a speech to explain his platform, he said, adding that he chose the local café because he thought the location set the campaign’s tone as “accessible and open to people.” Additionally, he said that Manjares represents a growing local business in New Haven, as the owner previously worked at a coffee shop in East Rock before starting this café in Westville.
“I’ve spent a lot of time listening to what the people are interested in changing about the city, and now I feel confident that I’m making the right decision that I think I can be an effective mayor,” Elicker said.
DeStefano, who is in his 10th term, was the first person to officially file his papers with City Hall to declare his candidacy; Sundiata Keitazulu, a plumber and New Haven resident, was the second. State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield has also expressed interest in running: Upon forming an exploratory committee last November, Holder-Winfield was able to accept campaign contributions.
Holder-Winfield, who said he has not yet had a chance to work directly with Elicker, added that he will announce whether he will run for mayor at the end of January, as originally planned.
“Justin may have filed, but Justin’s filing doesn’t change the plan that I laid out from the beginning: The plan is still to file my paperwork next week, unless something huge happens,” he said.
Elicker also said that he has used the past few months of conversation to understand the “common issues” with which people are concerned, such as improving schools, encouraging long-term fiscal responsibility, improving neighborhoods beyond downtown New Haven and strengthening youth programs.
Both Holder-Winfield and Elicker said that they are still committed to using the public finance system, originally created by DeStefano. However, DeStefano opted out of the system in 2011 and outspent his opponent, Jeffrey Kerekes, by a 14–1 margin.
“Money doesn’t buy elections, and Linda McMahon and Mitt Romney are proof of that,” Elicker said. “I think we won’t have to pay for a lot of things that DeStefano will have to pay for, like volunteers and people going door to door.”
While he said that he was not going to necessarily support Elicker, Ward 2 Alderman Frank Douglass ’04 said Elicker would do “just as good a job as anyone else.”
“[Elicker’s] been in public service for a number of years now, and he’d do a swell job,” said Douglass, who serves with Elicker on the board’s Legislation Committee. “I think he’s a fair person, and he’s got some deep morals.”
Ward 7 Alderman Doug Hausladen, who also serves with Elicker on the board’s Finance Committee, said he will be officially supporting Elicker’s candidacy and called him a “mentor.”
“I think our [current] mayor is of the old style of government, and I believe we need a new way of doing government in this country, and I am confident that Justin will bring us closer to that,” Hausladen said. “Top-down is the old style of government. … We as a citizenry are interested in bottom-up and participatory government.”
DeStefano first assumed the mayoral office in 1994.