Fifteen days after filing paperwork to run for mayor of New Haven, Connecticut State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield kicked off his campaign Saturday with a public event in Long Wharf. Nearly 70 people – including a handful of Holder-Winfield’s colleagues in the Connecticut House and seven Yale students – flocked to the back room of The Greek Olive to greet the candidate and hear about his vision for New Haven.

In a 13-minute speech, Holder-Winfield explained why he wanted to be mayor and laid out his tentative ideas for a campaign platform.

Addressing the issue of failing schools, Holder-Winfield said he would focus on early childhood education. He also mentioned curricular development, smaller classrooms and greater parental involvement as necessary aspects of school reform. To deal with crime in the city, Holder-Winfield said he would refocus efforts on community policing, ensuring that the police force actually engages the community it serves.

Holder-Winfield also spoke about economic development, saying he hoped to “make this city the jewel of Connecticut.” He cited New Haven’s easy access to a highway and a port and proximity to an airport and a number of universities – including Yale, Southern Connecticut State University and Quinnipiac University – as opportunities for economic advancement.

“We have tough economic circumstances right now,” Holder-Winfield said. “But New Haven is positioned to be a place of economic growth. We’re positioned to be a city that is integral to the economic growth of the state of Connecticut.”

Before the speech, Christine Bartlett-Josie, the campaign’s treasurer, distributed contribution forms to attendees. Bartlett-Josie said the campaign is slated to raise enough money to qualify for public financing by the end of the month. This will require having received 200 contributions and will make Holder-Winfield eligible for a $19,000 grant and matching funds of up to $125,000 through New Haven’s Democracy Fund.

Also seeking the mayor’s office are Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 and Sundiata Keitazulu, a plumber and New Haven resident.