Former state representative Bill Dyson confirmed Tuesday that he is considering running against Mayor John DeStefano Jr. to become New Haven’s next executive.
The longtime Connecticut politician maintained that he has not yet made a decision and is only pondering the many requests he said he has received to run for the position in this November’s election. So far, no one has formally announced that they will challenge DeStefano’s bid for a ninth consecutive term — a decision the mayor announced last October.
Dyson has a lengthy history with the city: He retired from the Connecticut House of Representatives after spending 32 years as the representative for the state’s 94th Assembly District. During that tenure, Dyson focused on prison re-entry issues and the state’s charter school system. If he decides to run for mayor, Dyson said, he will continue to concentrate on those issues and also will work toward more pervasive community policing and new solutions to homelessness and unemployment.
New Haven, he said, has more than its fair share of problems.
“I think it’s fair to say that the public would love to see us go about resolving some of these issues,” Dyson said in an interview Tuesday. “Will we resolve them all at once? Probably not. But do we need to start the process? Absolutely.”
Dyson said the only reason he is considering a run for mayor is that many of his former constituents have asked that he challenge DeStefano. State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, who won the state congressional seat for the 94th Assembly District after Dyson retired, confirmed that many New Haven residents pushed him to convince Dyson to run for mayor. Holder-Winfield, who used to intern for Dyson in Hartford, maintained that he would not automatically endorse Dyson if he decides to run for mayor, but he said he believes it is important to provide the city’s electorate with more than one option for the mayoral election.
“I’ve heard a lot of people — not a few people, but a lot of people — who’ve asked me to talk to Bill about running,” Holder-Winfield said. “A lot of people are looking for an opportunity to vote for someone else. I don’t think the election should just be given up uncontested.”
Dyson agreed that the calls for a second candidate are twofold: Some people are dissatisfied with DeStefano’s record, but others simply want to be presented with a choice.
Because of Dyson’s decades-long career in the state congress and DeStefano’s 15-year tenure as mayor, the two have worked together on numerous issues affecting the New Haven community, such as public school education and prison re-entry reform. Though DeStefano said he has not spoken with his potential contender regarding his candidacy, the mayor said he has “a lot of respect” for Dyson, a fellow Democrat.
“Is he a good candidate for mayor? That’s something the voters will have to decide once he makes his case,” DeStefano said in an interview Tuesday.
Dyson said he has no date in mind by when he will make — or not make — an announcement concerning his potential candidacy. He has also said he may run as an independent. Until then, he said, he will maintain dialogue with voters and think long and hard about the prospect of becoming mayor. He added that his age may also play a determining role in his final decision — Dyson is 68-years-old, and he said he understands that might not be the prime time to revive a political career. But Holder-Winfield remained adamant that Dyson’s years would not affect his ability to serve.
“Bill Dyson at 68 has far more energy than a lot of people my age,” Holder-Winfield said.
The mayoral election will take place Nov. 3.