Former City Clerk and Newhallville Alder Ron Smith plans to challenge Mayor Toni Harp this November, according to city officials.
Smith recently began the process of entering the mayoral race by filing papers at the City Clerk’s Office. Currently, Smith is collecting signatures to secure a spot on the Nov. 3 ballot as a petitioning candidate, meaning that he will run as an independent in the general election. If he successfully collects the requisite number of signatures, Smith will become Harp’s second opponent in the race, joining plumber and fellow Newhallville resident Sundiata Keitazulu, who entered the race in late March. Keitazulu will challenge Harp in the Democratic primary in September.
“I hope we can persuade [Smith] to come over to our side,” said Bitsie Clark, Harp’s campaign treasurer and former Downtown alder. “He’s a wonderful speaker that can make people feel excited about themselves and the city. He could be a great asset.”
Smith, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, served as city clerk while Clark sat on the Board of Alders. He was unseated after 10 years in office by current City Clerk Michael Smart, who was elected in 2013 after an endorsement from the Democratic Town Committee.
Keitazulu said he believes Smith should not run for mayor as an independent.
“It’s not a smart decision,” he said, “because no independent has ever become mayor in New Haven.”
But, Democracy Fund Administrator Alyson Heimer said, Smith’s status as an independent candidate does not prohibit him from utilizing the fund, the city’s public campaign financing program that offers grants and matching funds to candidates who agree not to accept personal donations exceeding $370. Heimer said that while she has spoken to Keitazulu about his interest in the fund, she has not yet met with Smith or Harp.
As Smith starts his path toward entering the race, the other two candidates have already made headway on the campaign trail.
Clark said the Harp campaign is continuing to raise funds, adding that she is excited to collaborate with Harp’s new campaign manager, Rick Melita. Clark said Melita will be valuable to the campaign due to his extensive experience at the state level. In 2006, he worked on the primary campaign of Ned Lamont’s SOM ’80 for U.S. Senate, and, since then, he has worked as a policy director for former state House Majority Leader Chris Donovan.
Keitazulu has also selected his campaign manager. Wendy Hamilton, a retired nurse and Wooster Square resident, will run Keitazulu’s campaign. Keitazulu said he chose Hamilton because she is passionate about the key issues on his platform, namely job creation and education reform.
“Year after year, new politicians come in, but everything stays the same,” Keitazulu said. “I’m trying to finally implement some change, and I’m going all the way to November.”
Meanwhile, Clark said, in Harp’s camp, she is working with Melita to continue organizing fundraising events. The campaign released an internal report on April 1 that showed encouraging levels of funds, she said.
Harp’s campaign will have a fundraising event on April 29 at Park Place East restaurant in the East Rock neighborhood.