Mayoral candidates race against finish line

There is no rest for the weary candidates running for the city’s top post.

Mayoral candidates Toni Harp ARC ’78 and Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 kept busy over the weekend as their campaigns entered the final stretch of what Elicker described on Sunday as a “roller coaster” of a race. Amid preparations for Tuesday’s debate and final fundraising efforts, the two candidates also spent time reaching out to city residents who will go to the polls in just over two weeks to elect one of them to succeed retiring New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.

Harp clinched September’s four-way Democratic primary in a decisive victory that has positioned her as the frontrunner leading into the general election. That status was on display when she met on Saturday with members of Women of Color Inc., who addressed the current Conn. state senator as “the mayor-elect” and engaged in a round-table discussion with the candidate about youth programming and violence in the city.

Elicker, who has stayed in the race as a petitioning Independent candidate following his loss in the primary, mobilized support across the city on Sunday — stopping by Yale in the early afternoon, followed by a canvass on Whalley Ave. and a fundraiser at a supporter’s home in Westville.

“My main challenge is name recognition,” Elicker told approximately 35 supporters crowded into the living room of the Westville home. “There are a lot of people who just haven’t done their homework about the election.”

Harp set out on Sunday to do a bit of homework of her own, reaching out to members of the non-profit youth services and business advocacy organization Women of Color, Inc., to learn about resources for the city’s youth from the perspective of service providers.

Harp said that restoring funding for community spaces — many of which have been dismantled over the past 40 years — depends on heightened political consciousness among a coalition of minority groups within the city.

“In the mid-70s, no one in the black and Hispanic communities seemed to be aware that they were an emerging majority population, and there seemed to be very little understanding of the responsibility of governance that [comes] with being a majority population in a democracy,” she said.

Harp called on city residents to lobby the city and the state for resources for once-thriving spaces like the Dixwell “Q” House. She added that youth programs are also vital for working mothers, who have traditionally borne the brunt of childcare.

Harp asked the women gathered to hold her accountable as mayor, to “knock on [her] door” and make sure she is living up to her campaign pledges.

Meanwhile, Elicker took his campaign across the city on Sunday, announcing a new partnership with New Haven city/town clerk incumbent Ron Smith. The pair canvassed on Whalley Ave. in the afternoon. Smith’s challenger, Democratic nominee and Ward 8 Alderman Michael Smart, is running on a ticket with Harp.

Elicker said Smith has deep ties to the city and that the city clerk will help him win votes in areas where he does not have the same name recognition as his opponent, including Newhallville, Dixwell and upper Westville.

Dropping in on Sunday’s freshman barbecue on Old Campus, Elicker chatted with freshly minted residents of the Elm City about their experiences beyond Yale’s gates, encouraging them to register to vote and support his candidacy for mayor.

Maxwell Ulin ’17 said he remains undecided — that he supports Elicker’s policy proposals but appreciates Harp’s 20 years of experience as a state senator. Justin Wang ’17 said he voted for Elicker in the primary and plans to support him again in the general election, mainly because of the candidate’s experience as an environmental consultant.

Elicker rounded out the weekend with a meet-and-greet and fundraiser in Westville. Pierrette Silverman, former director of elderly services and deputy chief of staff in the DeStefano administration, hosted the event. She praised Elicker for his keen understanding of the city’s budget and noted similarities between Elicker and Destefano.

“They’re both progressive thinkers with great fiscal minds,” Pierrette said.

She parried critiques of Elicker’s young age and perceived lack of experience by saying that DeStefano was 37 — the same age as Elicker — when he was elected.

Elicker asked his supporters to dig deep to support his candidacy in the final two weeks of the race. He said the stability of his campaign and his ability to manage his campaign’s finances responsibly prove he will be able to lead the city effectively through times of change.

The election will take place Nov. 5.

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