Ward 19 will not see a contested general election for alderman.Maureen Gardner withdrew on Thursday afternoon from the race just three weeks before the general election.

Her decision effectively hands the election to Mike Stratton, a personal injury lawyer and resident of Huntington Street. In September’s primary, Stratton won 430 votes to Gardner’s 264, but it remained unclear for over a month whether Gardner would stay in the race as a petitioning Independent candidate.

“I congratulate my primary opponent Mike Stratton and call on him to step up and work for all residents in Ward 19 — in Newhallville and East Rock alike,” Gardner said in a Thursday press release.

Reached Thursday evening, Stratton said he was “relieved” and added that he plans to get to work in the neighborhood, meeting with the Prospect Hill Community Group to consider problems of blight and to develop strategies for rejuvenating troubled parts of the ward, which straddles East Rock and Newhallville. Stratton said he plans to take a “laser focus” to the problem of crime, with recent bouts of violence spilling over from the Dwight neighborhood into Prospect Hill, he said.

Establishing community gardens in vacant lots will be another item on the top of his aldermanic agenda, he said.

“I’ve been waiting for four weeks for my opponent to concede,” he said. “Now I get to focus on policy.”

Freed from his own campaign responsibilities on Election Day, Stratton said he planned to spend his time stumping for mayoral candidate Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10.

Stratton has been a vocal opponent of Yale’s Unite Here unions, Locals 34 and 35, who backed Gardner in the primary. He said Gardner, who works for the Yale Alumni Fund, ran a negative campaign that depended on volunteers from the suburbs to knock doors for her.

“Existing power structures — mainly the Yale unions — are not terribly anxious about questioning the status quo,” he said. He added that his opponent’s campaign pitch relied on personal attacks, including accusations about Stratton’s perceived wealth.

Gardner’s decision leaves just four contested aldermanic races: in Ward 1, 6, 8 and 10.