While students lounging on Cross Campus were enjoying one of the last weekends of summer, supporters of Mayor Toni Harp gathered at the Elks on Dixwell Avenue for food, music and conversation.
More of a party than a formal campaign event, the Labor Day Weekend Cookout on Saturday afternoon was more a chance for Harp to connect with longtime supporters rather than solicit votes. The event was representative of Harp’s campaign style, which has consisted of several meet-and-greet events, such as a birthday celebration and a painting party. Eight weeks from election day, Harp has secured the support of Senators Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 and Chris Murphy, as well as Rep. Rosa DeLauro and several alders. Her opponents, Newhallville plumber Sundiata Keitazulu and former City Clerk Ron Smith, will face her as independents in the general election on Nov. 3.
“We’re moving forward,” Harp’s campaign manager Rick Melita said. “The last eight weeks are a critical time in terms of getting the word out and getting people to the polls.”
In addition to grilling stations serving hamburgers and hot dogs, the mayor’s cookout featured a DJ booth and a moon bounce. Although it took place on Labor Day Weekend, when many people leave town, the barbecue — which was publicized through Harp’s campaign website, emails and Facebook — drew a crowd. Close to 800 were invited through the event’s Facebook page.
Melita said the event was a chance for Harp, who represented New Haven as a state senator before her term as mayor, to connect with old friends.
Among the attendees were Newhallville Alder Brenda Foskey-Cyrus, one of several alders who has endorsed Harp. Melita said he has not spoken to any alders who oppose Harp’s bid. Foskey-Cyrus, who was also one of 18 alders to formally endorse Harp in 2013, said the cookout was an enjoyable social event where she was able to converse with the mayor one-on-one. Foskey-Cyrus is also one of eight alders who will compete in the aldermanic primary elections on Sept. 16. Melita added that, generally, Harp will support the incumbent alders in the primary elections.
Smith, who formally declared his bid for mayor in late July, has not held any publicized campaign events since his announcement. His campaign has planned a barbecue meet-and-greet similar to Harp’s cookout for Sept. 11. Keitazulu, meanwhile, said he plans to spend his time campaigning door-to-door.
“Harp doesn’t need a campaign,” Keitazulu said, adding that the incumbent’s support is strong enough to grant her a landslide victory because many city residents are not even aware that she is being challenged by two opponents.
Hill Alder Dolores Colon ’91, who said she believes Harp does not have serious opposition, said that any candidate who challenges Harp will have a difficult time given her record and support.
Melita said that while the next two months of campaigning are the most critical for the mayoral election, he expects mayoral campaign events to slow down in the two weeks leading up to the aldermanic primaries as city residents will be focused on the local races. Once the primaries have been decided, the Harp campaign will pick up the pace, he said.