A few raucous guests at Tuesday night’s mayoral debate between Democrat Toni Harp ARC ’78 and Independent Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 made the event a bit more contentious, and bizarre, than was expected.
Prior to the final public debate of the Mayoral election, two men dressed up as pirates — adopting full attire and accents to match — passed out fliers to attendees. The literature raised allegations that the Harp family’s real estate company, Renaissance Management, poorly maintained its properties and had plundered, so to speak, the finances of citizens.
The two-page pamphlet asked readers to match photos of decrepit properties purportedly owned by Renaissance Management to a list of building deficiencies: “Match the dangerous defect to its HARP owned property.”
Controversy over Renaissance Management has come up multiple times throughout Harp’s campaign. Harp has attempted to distance herself from Renaissance Management by pointing to her long career as a public servant and away from the family’s private enterprise.
Yet at Tuesday night’s debate, she went so far as to defend the firm, saying “The reality is that you went into one apartment building that has the same problem every other elderly apartment complex has.”
In response, Elicker accused the business of “taking advantage of poor people.” According to Elicker, Harp’s creation of an amnesty program for tax evaders in the State Legislature was a conflict of interest because her family’s business was the biggest “tax scofflaw” in the state. Elicker’s second allegation regarding Renaissance Management elicited boos from the crowd.
The pirates, on the other hand, remained tight-lipped except for inviting onlookers to a “Slumlord party.”