For at least two New Haven politicians, campaign season won’t end this year on Nov. 6.
The race for president of the city’s 30-member Board of Aldermen is already under way, even though the full composition of the new board will not be determined until Election Day.
Both incumbent Jorge Perez and fellow alderman Willie Greene announced soon after last month’s Democratic primary that they would run for the office, and each has accused the other of jumping prematurely into the race — nearly three and a half months before internal elections in mid-January.
Greene circulated two letters within the board last month stating his intention to run for the post.
Perez, in his 14th year on the Board, said yesterday he was surprised by what he termed Greene’s “early start.”
“The ideal time to begin campaigning is when we know what the makeup of the board is going to be,” said Perez. “That’s what I did last time around, I waited until general elections were over.”
As a liaison between the board and City Hall, the president has traditionally served as the public voice of the city’s legislative body.
Greene could not be reached for comment over the weekend, but told the New Haven Register on Sept. 25 he was simply playing the same game as Perez.
He accused Perez of making telephone calls “a half-hour after the polls closed” in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary.
There are no official rules governing when aldermen may begin campaigning for the post.
Each new two-year aldermanic term also brings with it elections for five other posts: president pro tempore, majority leader, minority leader and two deputy party leaders.
The Democratic and Republican caucuses meet in mid-December and take straw polls to determine the leading candidates for the positions. The full board votes a month later once it takes control in mid-January.
Perez said he is confident he will win re-election.
“Based on my conversations with my colleagues, I can say I have an overwhelming majority behind me,” he said. “Like they say, it isn’t over ’til the fat lady sings, but I feel very confident.”
Greene has made it clear he would attempt to distance the board and its presidency from City Hall.
“I’m interested in making the board much more independent from the administration,” Greene told the Register. “City Hall has been strong-arming the Board of Aldermen and — it needs to stop.”
If elected, Perez said he would concentrate his energies on educational issues and government accessibility.
“The primary goal of the president is to keep the board running smoothly,” he said. “But I’m going to continue to make headway into early childhood and education and — make government accessible to all citizens.”
Specifically, he said he would focus legislative time on the city’s massive school renovation campaign and open government initiatives like the existing “Mayor’s night out” program.