Matthew Nemerson’s entry into the mayoral race on Wednesday makes him the fifth candidate to join the field so far.
Nemerson, who is the president and CEO of the Connecticut Technology Council, has served as the president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce. By joining the race, Nemerson enters an already crowded field of city residents who are vying to replace Mayor John DeStefano Jr. after he announced earlier this year that this would be his last term.
Nemerson said he thought about what he could offer as a candidate after Probate Judge Jack Keyes declined to enter the mayoral race last week, and he ultimately decided to run following some consideration. He said that his ability to form partnerships and his willingness to work with others makes him uniquely qualified for the position of mayor, adding that he hopes to take advantage of relationships with manufacturers in the city and expand New Haven’s jobs sector.
“For a lot of us who have been involved in city politics since the 1980s, there haven’t been many political opportunities to get involved in New Haven,” Nemerson said. “A bunch of people have been thinking about whether they’d ever have the chance to run for mayor. … This is about a huge personal investment of one’s whole being into something that is very challenging, difficult and rewarding, but it’s not something you do lightly.”
He said that the next mayor is going to have many “difficult decisions” to make and will have an opportunity to “steer” the city in new directions.
Nemerson helped with the launch of the Science Park Development Corporation and served as its founding vice president, later serving as the president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce as well.
“I’ve dealt with job creation and innovation and trying to really grow all these different parts of the state’s economy,” Nemerson said.
The latest candidate, however, said that he will not participate in the Democracy Fund, the Elm City’s public financing system for mayoral elections, due to concerns that he will not be able to raise enough funds, as well as declared mayoral candidate Henry Fernandez’s LAW ’94 intention to eschew the Fund. Nemerson added that he might be willing to re-evaluate the decision regarding the Fund if Fernandez changes his mind.
“Maybe if there were some way we could convince [Fernandez] to be a part of it, maybe we could be part of it,” Nemerson said. “Maybe even if [Fernandez] doesn’t accept a plea to join the Democracy Fund, we might still abide by it: Maybe we’ll still limit ourselves to the limits the Democracy Fund poses.”
Fernandez, the city’s former economic development administrator, said that he knows Nemerson from his role as Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce president. Fernandez said that he is still “focused on the issues” and does not expect Nemerson’s entry into the race to affect his campaign.
Neither does mayoral candidate and Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, who said he will still participate in the Democracy Fund despite both Fernandez’s and Nemerson’s decisions not to do so.
“We’re still plugging ahead and focusing on what we can control, which is working hard and knocking on doors and fundraising,” Elicker said. “It’s disappointing that Fernandez and Nemerson will not be using the Democracy Fund. It’s clear that the vast majority of Americans and the vast majority of New Haveners want to see big money stop influencing politics.”
Nemerson said that as someone who has “been out there in the business community for 30 years” he would be able to fundraise, but that the idea that he would be beholden to those who donated to him is “ridiculous.”
Nemerson is the fifth candidate to enter the mayoral race, joining Elicker, Fernandez, plumber Sundiata Keitazulu and State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, who could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.