Mayor Toni Harp will have at least one opponent in the mayoral race this November.
Newhallville plumber Sundiata Keitazulu filed papers to run for election with the city clerk’s office Tuesday. Keitazulu, who also ran in the 2013 election, said his campaign will focus on job creation and education reform in the city.
“That’s the one part of our city that has never been addressed,” Keitazulu said. “The unemployed and the unemployable. I want to take advantage of that human resource.”
Keitazulu said he hopes to lower crime rates in the city by lowering unemployment. The city needs new jobs, he said, and those who consider themselves unemployable need to have access to education.
Barbara Fair, a racial justice activist and secretary of the American Civil Liberties Union’s New Haven chapter, said she hopes even more candidates enter the mayoral race to challenge Harp.
“I wish there were more options for voters,” she said. “But it is what it is.”
Fair said she has been dissatisfied with Harp’s failure to establish a transparent mayoral administration. Echoing Keitazulu’s focus on unemployment, Fair also argued that city residents should be prioritized for construction hiring.
To support his campaign, Keitazulu added that he will rely on public financing, available through the city’s Democracy Fund. The fund, which also supported Keitazulu in 2013, is a city program chaired by Jared Milfred ’16 that pursues fair elections by offering candidates matching funds and grants if they agree to not accept private donations exceeding $370.
“Sundiata and I sat down and had a lovely conversation to discuss his use of the fund,” Democracy Fund administrator Alyson Heimer said. She added that she plans to meet with Keitazulu again after he has assembled his campaign team.
Heimer added that she has not yet been approached by any other mayoral candidates who have expressed interest in utilizing the fund.
Like Harp, Keitazulu has not made a public announcement regarding his candidacy. Although Harp has not yet formally announced her plans to seek re-election, she has selected a yet-to-be-announced campaign manager, according to campaign treasurer Bitsie Clark.
Harp, who filed papers with the city clerk’s office and formed a campaign committee two weeks ago, has thus far only publicly announced two campaign team members — Clark as her treasurer and Larcina Wynn, president of accounting firm Carrington Financial Services, as deputy treasurer. City Hall spokesman Laurence Grotheer said Harp would likely formally announce her intent to run after announcing her campaign manager.
“I’m planning on having breakfast with the mayor tomorrow to meet the new campaign manager,” Clark said.
Though Harp hosted a kickoff event at Barracuda Bar and Bistro two weeks ago and a meet-and-greet event entitled “Painting with the Mayor” last week at Art Plus Studio — the only two campaign events publicized on her campaign website — Clark said Harp has attended several informal or private events over the past two weeks.
Clark said that an especially successful event was a fundraiser at the Knickerbockers Golf Club in Dixwell — one of the oldest African-American golf clubs in the country. She added that the campaign team is currently searching for a venue in East Rock to hold a fundraising event at some point in the next two weeks.
“People are really giving money,” she said. “That’s been great.”
Harp did not utilize the Democracy Fund in the 2013 election. Her opponents Keitazulu, Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 and Kermit Carolina all made use of the fund.