Despite facing three challengers for her office in this year’s election, Mayor Toni Harp appears well-positioned to consolidate support among elected officials in the Elm City.
East Shore firefighter Salvatore Consiglio — who joined the race for mayor in late March — is the second independent candidate to challenge Harp this cycle. Earlier this month, Ron Smith, former alder and city clerk, announced that he was throwing his hat in the race. Both Consiglio and Smith will face the incumbent on Nov. 3, while Newhallville plumber Sundiata Keitazulu will run against Harp in the Democratic primary this September.
According to the city charter, Smith and Consiglio must both submit the signatures of 208 registered voters to the City Clerk’s Office by Aug. 5 to qualify as petitioning candidates. Smith and Consiglio did not respond to requests for comment Thursday evening.
But in terms of endorsements from other city leaders, Harp appears to have a head start. Several alders interviewed agreed that Harp’s experience gives her a clear advantage over her opponents who have thus far declared their candidacies.
“I think whoever decides to run against [Harp] will have a long, hard fight,” Hill Alder Dolores Colon ’91 said. “[Smith and Keitazulu], I would dismiss immediately, and I’ve never heard of Salvatore [Consiglio].”
Colon was one of 18 alders to endorse Harp in 2013. She said that while she has not yet made a formal decision to endorse the incumbent for re-election, she has been impressed with Harp’s work, especially in balancing the city’s budget. Beaver Hills Alder Brian Wingate, who also endorsed Harp in 2013, confirmed that he will be endorsing her for re-election.
West Rock Alder Carlton Staggers was among the alders who did not formally endorse Harp in 2013. He added that while he plans to consult with the co-chairs of his ward before committing to a formal endorsement, he will be supporting Harp in November.
“I think the mayor needs at least two more years to keep doing the work that she’s doing,” Staggers said.
None of the four mayoral candidates have formally announced their intentions to run, but Rick Melita, Harp’s campaign manager, said the mayor will make her public announcement at 1 p.m. on May 16 at Edgewood Park during a campaign kickoff event. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is scheduled to open the event and introduce Harp.
Melita said the Harp campaign is not yet focused on opposing candidates.
“I’ll let the opponents speak for themselves,” he said. “Right now, we’re interested in getting our message out there.”
One of the key components of the campaign message, Melita said, is Harp’s commitment to youth services in the city. He specifically cited the success of New Haven’s City Youth Stat — a city initiative recognized by President Barack Obama during his address at the 2015 U.S. Conference of Mayors. Youth Stat uses data surrounding student absences from school and students transferring between schools to identify and assist at-risk youth.
“It’s innovative,” Melita said. “And New Haven was the place that figured it out.”
Harp’s next fundraiser will be hosted at Park Place East Restaurant in East Rock on April 29.