Six months before the Nov. 3 New Haven municipal elections, only one individual has officially declared that he will challenge Mayor John DeStefano Jr.: Darnell Goldson, who confirmed Sunday night that he will enter the race as an Independent.
Goldson originally disclosed over a year ago that he planned to run, but has since then held off on making an official announcement in the hopes that former state representative Bill Dyson would run for the office, he said. But now that 68-year-old Dyson has confirmed that he will not enter the race, Goldson said it is his duty to challenge the eight-term incumbent.
“DeStefano’s been in that office too long, and he’s surrounded himself with people who are not from here, who do not understand the burden he’s putting on residents,” Goldson said in an interview.
Goldson, a former legislative aide who once worked under DeStefano, maintained that the mayor no longer understands the challenges facing New Haven residents, and that he spends too much time crusading for the Elm City Resident Card and not enough time finding methods to lower taxes.
“I don’t desire the title of ‘mayor of New Haven,’ ” Goldson said. “I’m just a tax-paying father in this town who wants to see citizens of this city being treated fairly.”
But the question remains: Does Goldson — who has never been elected to a New Haven office — have a chance at winning a race against a 15-year incumbent?
Aldermanic President Carl Goldfield said Goldson does not. When asked about the likelihood of Goldson entering, and winning, a mayoral election against DeStefano, Goldfield said in January that Goldson, who once headed the New Haven Community Action Agency, simply does not have enough experience.
“I never thought he was a particularly serious guy, and I haven’t heard boo from him since he announced he was thinking of running,” Goldfield said. “Fundamentally, he doesn’t have the skills to be the mayor of the city. He has no political base.”
If elected, Goldson said, he would take action to “streamline” the city government in order to balance the budget; for example, instead of laying off teachers, he said, he would consolidate positions in the Mayor’s Office. Additionally, Goldson said, he would terminate the Elm City Resident Card and devote existing Community Services Administration staff to the three senior centers DeStefano announced last month he will have to close.
DeStefano told the News in January of last year that Goldson’s contempt for the Elm City Resident Card does not correspond with the general attitudes of New Haven residents about the program.
“[Goldson] borders on the irrational,” DeStefano said. “Point of fact: The ID card is available for all city residents. [His assertions are] part of the fear-mongering that tears communities down rather than builds them up. It is unfortunate and nonproductive.”
Goldson, though, contended he is well-equipped to handle the job. Goldson served under DeStefano as a legislative liaison between 1997 and 2001, when Goldson found DeStefano’s executive policies more in keeping with his own, he said. Goldson’s work at the CAA and Project Model Offenders Reintegration Experience have provided him with valuable knowledge about the problems facing the city, he said. Goldson said he currently works for a youth-oriented organization in Massachussets, though he declined to specify the name of the program.
But Goldson’s record from his work with the CAA is far from spotless. In 2005, Goldson was fired from his post as executive director of the CAA after his wife was accused of using CAA funds to make personal purchases at Victoria’s Secret; Goldson settled out of court in 2007.
In reference to DeStefano’s challenger, City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga deferred comment to Keya Jayaram, the mayor’s new campaign manager for the upcoming election. Jayaram said the presence of other candidates in the race will not affect the shape DeStefano’s campaign will take — even if DeStefano and Goldson once worked very closely together, she said.
“Our campaign will be based on a vision for the city, not on potential opposition,” Jayaram said.
Goldson said he will officially kick off his campaign in late April.