Yale donors flock to Elicker

Updated campaign finance reports show that the two candidates competing to become New Haven’s next mayor are neck-and-neck in fundraising heading into the final three weeks before the election.

In the month of September, Connecticut State Sen. Toni Harp ARC ’78 and Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 both amassed just over $100,000. Though the two candidates raised approximately equal sums of money, their sources of revenue differed. Lists of individual donors who contributed $370 or more reveal that affiliates of Yale have shelled out considerable resources for Elicker, while only a handful of Harp’s top individual donors are employed by the University.

Between Sept. 3 and Oct. 3, Harp raked in a total of $103,955, receiving $85,155 from individuals and $17,500 from committees, including the Connecticut State Council of Machinists, the Connecticut Association of Optometrists and a number of union locals. Elicker took in $100,353, receiving $96,823 from individuals and $3,530 from the Democracy Fund, New Haven’s public campaign finance system that prohibits special interest money and limits contributions to $370.

As a petitioning Independent candidate in the general election, Elicker lost access to the Fund following his loss in the Sept. 10 primary, though he has said he will continue to abide by its rules. Harp has abstained from the Democracy Fund throughout the election.

Of 159 people who gave $370 or more to the Elicker campaign, 43 are affiliated with Yale — students, professors, staff members, administrators and physicians at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Elicker received $60,811 from donations of $370 or more. Nearly one-third of that total — $16,570 — came from Yale affiliates.

Harp received only three donations of $370 or more from Yale affiliates, accounting for just $1,500 of the $49,890 she raised from high-contributing individuals.
Eight Yale students and professors interviewed said they donated to Elicker’s campaign because of his responsiveness as an East Rock alderman, his participation in the Democracy Fund and a number of his policy commitments.

“Justin Elicker has been a fantastic ward alderman, sensitive to the issues facing residents and to the complex challenges facing the city,” said psychology professor Karen Wynn, who donated the maximum to Elicker’s campaign. She also cited Elicker’s clean fundraising promises as an alternative to the “business as usual” approach that she said has “surrounded other candidates.”

David Crosson ’14 also said Elicker’s participation in the Democracy Fund moved him to donate $370. Crosson added that he thinks Elicker will be a better advocate for New Haven’s interests in negotiations with Yale because the candidate is more willing to “push back on Yale for having too much leverage in the town-gown relationship.”

Sean Hundtofte GRD ’17 said he donated to Elicker because he trusts him to crack down on slumlords, while School of Management professor Barry Nalebuff said he was moved to donate because of Elicker’s commitment to reforming the city’s zoning regulation.

Elicker said he did not specifically target Yale donors but said the high concentration of University affiliates among his top contributors reflects his broader fundraising strategy of raising money from people within the city.

“The point is that I’ve been receiving my donations from people within the city. Harp doesn’t have a lot of donors from New Haven, period,” he said.
Harp Campaign Manager Jason Bartlett attributed Elicker’s high proportion of Yale donors to his work as an alderman, stating that a strong base of funding support for Elicker were Yale professors residing in East Rock.

By contrast, he said, Harp sought donations from supporters from across the city and state.

“Senator Harp is a statewide entity. People have known her as a state senator for 20 years,” he said.

School of Forestry and Environmental Studies professor Marian Chertow SOM ’81 FES ’00 cited Harp’s chairmanship of the state senate’s appropriations committee as a principal reason for her donation, saying in a Sunday email that Harp is “on excellent terms with the current state administration which will undoubtedly be important over the next couple of years.”

She added that Harp “sees the University as a key employer and innovator” but also speaks to the broader interests of the city, noting Harp’s victory in a vast majority of the city’s 30 wards in the Democratic primary.

Gordon Geballe GRD ’81, associate dean of student and alumni affairs for the Forestry School, and School of Architecture Professor Kent Bloomer ’59 ART ’61 also donated to Harp’s campaign.

Though Harp eked out only a small fundraising lead over her opponent, she vastly outspent him in September. Harp spent $139,730 over the course of the month, compared to Elicker’s $55,082 in expenditures.

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