Although challenges loom ahead, more than 100 supporters attended a fundraiser Tuesday evening at Neat Lounge, during which New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced that his campaign for Connecticut governor has raised more than $1 million.
DeStefano emphasized his plans for improving transportation and traffic problems in Connecticut to encourage economic growth. He said his goal in easing traffic congestion would be “to create a climate where businesses want to be here” by aiding the movement of people in and out of the state. He also stressed the importance of “removing property tax as the funder for education.”
Supporters at the event praised DeStefano’s work in revitalizing New Haven over the last decade, while expressing enthusiasm about his plans for the future.
“DeStefano has done a lot of exciting things for the city. He’s demonstrated a pro-active involvement supporting education and working against crime,” Gemma Lumpkin, an education consultant and New Haven resident, said.
DeStefano said he aims to gain contributions from people who have never given to a campaign before and who may not even know his name yet. Though the majority of the funds raised so far for his campaign are from New Haven County, DeStefano said he plans to “turn that inside out” by reaching out to other parts of the state.
Shonu Ghandi ’03, DeStefano’s campaign manager, said the fact that DeStefano was able to raise so much money over the summer — despite competition from presidential and congressional fundraising — bodes well for the future. She said his goal is to raise $4 million by the primary election, and if he wins, $7 million by the general.
While DeStefano said he believes that attention has been drawn to issues of political corruption in recent months, he said he thought the scandal surrounding former Governor John G. Rowland — who resigned in July — will not be a major factor in the 2006 election for governor.
But Charles Pillsbury ’72, a New Haven community mediator who ran as the Green Party candidate for U.S. Congress in 2002, said he thought the Rowland scandal might hurt turnout for the gubernatorial race.
“It’s hard to say what voters will do,” Pillsbury said. “But it’s possible that some people will be more turned off by politics.”
One challenge for DeStefano and his opponents, Pillsbury said, will be to demonstrate a plan to “forge one Connecticut” out of many divided constituencies — ranging from cities to suburbs and from different economic backgrounds. But he said he has confidence in DeStefano’s leadership ability and supports his campaign.
Jim Clark ’72, a state prosecutor and North Haven resident, said he thought DeStefano’s message about economic growth and traffic congestion would resound with voters.
“It’s true that businesses are scared of all the congestion,” Clark said. “Nobody else is even talking about the problem. That will appeal to businesses.”
But Clark said DeStefano will face challenges in the gubernatorial race, and his chances of winning both the primary and general elections will depend on many unpredictable factors, including the performance of Republican Governor Jodi Rell — who has yet to announce whether she will run in 2006.
DeStefano said he was not concerned that he might lose credibility as the mayor of New Haven by running for the highest state office.
“The people who live here know my passion for the city,” DeStefano said. “It could give people a sense of pride that their mayor is running for governor.”