Close associates of Mayor Toni Harp created a political action committee on Oct. 1 to strengthen her political base and prepare for a re-election campaign in 2017.
City Youth Services Director Jason Bartlett and Elm City lawyer Dawud Amin spearheaded the effort to create the PAC, SEE 2 2020. Bartlett was Harp’s campaign manager during her successful bid for the mayorship in 2013.
Amin, who is the PAC’s president, worked with her on that campaign and in Hartford during her time as a state senator. Amin said one of the PAC’s main purposes is to educate residents about the city’s public programs and resources.
“A lot of people just don’t realize how much this administration has pushed New Haven forward,” Amin said. “We know it’s important to get this message out, to spread the word about the mayor’s accomplishments and let people know what is available to them.”
Amin added that funds from the PAC would also go toward canvassing efforts and events for Harp’s re-election campaign as well as the campaigns of alders who support the mayor. He said the PAC’s name, SEE 2 2020, refers to these purposes, as it is an acronym for Harp’s three main focuses as a mayor: safety, education and enforcement. The PAC’s name also emphasizes its focus on helping residents see the resources available to them and the mayor’s accomplishments.
Some have speculated the PAC will be used to fund and support a gubernatorial run by Harp in the near future. Harp, who has been mayor since 2014 and served as a state senator for 20 years before that, would have a lot of support if she decided to run for governor, Amin said. But he said she has not told him of any inclination to run for the governorship.
Harp told the News Dec. 6 that she has no plans to run for the position.
“The people who created the PAC were among those who had urged me to run for governor, but it’s not something I see in my future right now,” Harp said. “I have more than enough to keep me busy here in the city.”
Harp added that calling the PAC her own would be an exaggeration, given that she is neither the president nor the treasurer. Amin and Rae Boykin, who is the treasurer, also make almost all of the PAC’s decisions, according to Harp.
She added that she was only involved in the PAC as a member of the oversight committee.
Harp said she hoped funds from the committee would support the municipal, state and federal campaigns for like-minded candidates, including in gubernatorial races, and help pay for events hosted by nonprofits.
She has had another PAC for several years that focuses on those goals, she said. Harp added that it would be helpful if money from the PAC went towards polling and canvassing in New Haven to gauge her performance and the desires of her constituents.
The PAC has already received $1,700 in donations from eight donors. City Deputy Director of Economic Development Steve Fontana and city planner Michael Piscitelli each donated $250 to the committee, as did one of Harp’s former mayoral competitors, New Haven Public Schools supervisor Kermit Carolina. Other payments to the PAC came from a pastor, a lawyer and a radio station chief executive officer, among others.
Of five Elm City residents interviewed, three said they support the mayor and would donate to the PAC.
Mayors serve two-year terms in New Haven.