Mayor John DeStefano Jr. just announced he will not be seeking a second term. A few, quick thoughts about this development:

  1. If I had to bet, DeStefano thinks he’s going to lose if he ran again. In the last election, he poured money into his campaign and won by his slimmest margin in 20 years to a relative nobody of a candidate, Jeffrey Kerekes. This go around, DeStefano faces at least one serious challenger, Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10. If he ran as an independent this November, Elicker would pick up at least Kerekes’ votes and then some, putting him in striking distance of a majority. In DeStefano’s mind, it’s better to walk away a winner with a distinguished legacy than a defeated incumbent thrown out for his poor record. The decision of when to quit is one of the hardest any politician can make. The temptation is always to stay on for another election. DeStefano deserves credit for having the grace to realize when his time was up.
  2. Change has to be good for New Haven. Fresh blood in City Hall will bring new ideas and vibrancy to a political system that is increasingly in need of reform. I hope that the next mayor supports development (in particular, the slate of Yale projects set to begin in the near future and the Route 34 development near the Medical School) and has the courage to take on the city’s pension crisis.
  3. Again, if I had to guess, I think Elicker will win the election. The African-American community in New Haven has the potential to be incredibly politically powerful and to capture this election with one of its own. However, it lacks the structure and the machine that allow urban groups to only put forward a single candidate and rally all of their votes behind him or her (though, the unions, to some extent, want to be that machine). In past mayoral elections, a number of different African-American candidates have run and split the African-American vote. I would guess much the same will happen this time around, leaving Elicker free to capture City Hall this fall.
Nathaniel Zelinsky is a senior in Davenport College. Contact him at