Ward 3 Alderman Juan Candelaria will likely replace the late John Martinez as state representative from Connecticut’s 95th House District. Martinez, a longtime Hispanic legislator known for his work on poverty issues, was killed in a car crash just over a week ago.
“I have every expectation that Juan will be nominated,” said Democratic Town Committee chairwoman Susan Voigt. “He has shown his willingness to work hard in the Hill and for the city of New Haven.”
At an unofficial gathering of the 95th district’s voting members on Sunday afternoon, Candelaria received two thirds of the “straw” vote, beating out Ward 16 Alderman Raul Avila and Democratic Town Committee member Norma Rodriguez-Reyes.
The Democratic Town Committee will officially choose a successor to Martinez at their meeting tomorrow evening. The endorsement of the 95th District was not a legally binding decision; the vote of the 60-member committee will dictate who appears as the Democratic candidate on the ballot in November.
Voigt stressed that Candelaria would sustain a limited Latino representation in Hartford.
“I think it’s significant and important to maintain that Latino presence,” she said.
Candelaria confirmed his plans to go through with the candidacy, noting his close personal relationship with Martinez.
“Johnny was a good friend of mine, so he was mentoring me along the way,” Candelaria said.
Speaking at the Board of Alderman meeting Monday night, Candelaria memorialized his friend and asked for a moment of silence in remembrance.
“We lost a great friend in state Representative John Martinez,” said Candelaria, speaking slowly in the quiet City Hall meeting room. “We will miss his energy, friendship and leadership — his commitment to New Haven in all aspects.”
If the Democratic Town Committee selects Candelaria tomorrow evening, he would face Republican challenger Duffy Acevedo next month. If Candelaria wins in November, he will not have to desert his aldermanic duties immediately. Chris DiPino, currently the state Republican Party Chairman, served in both capacities in the 1990s.
The 95th District includes most of the Hill and Fair Haven neighborhoods, an area that encompasses Candelaria’s aldermanic district.
Avila, who received only one vote on Sunday, ran against Martinez in the primary earlier this year and lost in every district. He later entered his name in the general election as a write-in candidate.
Reyes, who received the other two votes, has since retracted her candidacy, throwing her support to Candelaria.