The mayor was on his way to campaign at an event for New Haven’s oldest residents, but he couldn’t get his mind off the kids.
“I got booed at the concert,” he said to Julio Gonzalez ’99, his campaign manager, as he lingered inside his Orange Street central campaign headquarters Sunday afternoon.
“It was partial boos, partial roar,” Gonzalez reassured the mayor. “You won them over with calling it hip-hop as per my instructions. Do you know the difference between rap and hip-hop?”
“I know hip-hop,” the mayor said.
In the final days of the closest race of his eight-year mayoral career, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has been straddling the line between his old Democratic allies and a rising group of young leaders. His has been a re-election campaign notably light on many former Democratic heavies, some of whom are now supporting DeStefano’s challenger, state Sen. Martin Looney, instead led by a new generation of New Haveners.
The campaign ends tomorrow, when voters will head to the polls, ending a long and contentious campaign for the Democratic nomination. And in the final 48 hours of the primary campaign, both candidates are traversing the city for votes.
The mayor began his final Sunday morning of the race at a morning champagne brunch fund raiser at Anthony’s Ocean View Restaurant, a restaurant in the East Shore neighborhood where he grew up.
Like the supporters at many of his events, the Anthony’s crowd was charged with a cautious optimism, marked by the occasional tight huddle of suits reviewing the plans for the primary election one more time.
In front of a 300-strong crowd of mostly longtime Democratic supporters, Leon Medvedow, the campaign’s finance committee chairman, introduced the mayor, while noting the distinctions within the mayor’s campaign.
“This is the money arm of the campaign — it’s different from the campaign committee,” Medvedow said. “That’s a young spirited group of idealistic young people — this is the money pit that lets the other group do what it has to do.”
At the event, supporters were liberal in dispensing reassurances about DeStefano winning re-election, and the mayor was just as liberal in reminding them to get out the vote.
Once it ended, DeStefano waved goodbye to Peter Persano, one of the event’s organizers. A moment later the mayor stopped, paused, and turned back.
“I know I said it 10 times,” DeStefano told Persano, slapping a hand on his shoulder, “but early, early, early.”
Persano told him he’ll be at the polls at 7 a.m., and the mayor was off to the “Mayormobile” — a black Lincoln Navigator bearing the license tags “1-NH.” As he rode, he stared at the “Looney” and “DeStefano” signs that dot neighborhood lawns — mostly Looneys in this area — and looked back wistfully at a man watering his Looney-endorsing lawn.
The mayor made a brief stop at his Orange Street headquarters, where he visited the “young, idealistic” part of his staff. The office, filled with “Mayor DeStefano” signs, city maps and lists of voters, is also filled with current and just-graduated Yalies, making the mayor, 46, one of the oldest in the room by more than 20 years.
The next event in his “schedule” binder brought the mayor to the opposite end of the spectrum, a ceremony for centenarians at the Jewish Home for the Aged’s Grandparent’s Day celebration.
It was a mayoral event, but like many of his weekend ceremonies, there was still the opportunity for campaigning
“I’m usually the first voter in the morning,” a 96-year old in a wheelchair told the mayor.
“Then could you vote two or three times you think?” the smiling mayor joked.
Twenty minutes later, after another short ride in the “Mayormobile” and a short speech at a church in Newhallville, DeStefano met two men and three kids with a basketball.
“Man, you have to win, you have to win,” one man told the mayor, shaking his hand. “Looney, they just gave me this potholder.”
An hour later, after leaving a reception at the home of Law School Dean Anthony Kronman, an equally enthusiastic young crowd greeted the mayor.
“You’re going to beat Looney!” five preteen girls yelled to him as he boarded the Navigator.
“You should work for the campaign,” he said.
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