Three weeks after her defeat in the Democratic primary, Ward 28 Alder Claudette Robinson-Thorpe announced earlier this week that she will run in the general election to continue her bid for a fourth term.
Robinson-Thorpe joins another incumbent defeated in the primary, Ward 12 Alder Richard Spears, in choosing to run in the general election. Both candidates were bested by union-backed candidates in the September primary, but said they believe their chances of success will be higher in November.
Running in the general after losing the primary is not a rare tactic in New Haven. Mayoral candidates in 2011 and 2013 ran in the general after losing the primary, and Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12 hinted throughout her campaign that she might try her hand in November even if she fell to challenger Fish Stark ’17 in the primary.
Spears and Robinson-Thorpe have a common rationale behind their decisions to continue campaigning. The two incumbents — who must submit petitions to run in November due to their primary loss — both said higher turnout in the general election may work to their benefit.
“People seem positive, and a lot of people don’t vote in the primary for whatever reason,” Robinson-Thorpe said. “But more people come out for the mayor’s race.”
For Robinson-Thorpe, who lost to Jill Marks by only 58 of the 552 votes cast, higher turnout may elicit marked benefits. A broken leg and ankle hurt her ability to canvas during the primary race, she said.
Robinson-Thorpe said her decision to run in the general election was motivated by a desire to continue serving her community and to see the projects she started to completion. She said the strength of her multiyear record may influence voters in November.
Robinson-Thorpe added that her work in City Hall and with the neighborhood’s community management team, as well as her accessibility to Beaver Hills residents, demonstrate her commitment to the position.
Spears also said increased turnout at the general election could prove a boon for his campaign. In the 2013 general election, Spears received 482 votes despite facing no challenger. He expressed confidence that the majority of those voters will support him again in November. Spears faces a tough challenge: his primary defeat to former alder Gerald Antunes came at a 64-point margin — by far the largest in the city.
Still, he expressed optimism about his chances.
“More people came to my aid when they realized they missed the primary date,” Spears said, adding that he now has eight people canvassing the ward on his behalf — twice the number he had during the primary.
Antunes said he focused his primary campaign around issues of advocating for his constituency, emphasizing Spears’ poor attendance record at aldermanic meetings.
He said he has no plans to change his campaign strategy in the general election. He said he is “confident, but never overconfident” about his chances of success.
“There’s no need to modify [strategy],” he said. “The issues are exactly the same — that I’ve got a record of doing the job.”
Antunes said his campaign team only has around five volunteers. Spears noted, however, that Antunes’ union backing allows him to call on many more volunteers, often numbering up to 20, Spears said.
Robinson-Thorpe and Spears face a significant hurdle: neither carries endorsements from the Democratic Town Committee. For Robinson-Thorpe, this is nothing new. Marks clinched the Democratic primary endorsement over the summer. Still, the lack of endorsement leaves both campaigns with a smaller base of resources than their opponents.
DTC chairman Vincent Mauro Jr. said the committee will firmly support Marks and Antunes.
“In both of those situations, the two people who won the primary will receive the overwhelming support of the Town Committee,” he said.
Mauro added that the margin of Antunes’ victory demonstrates the depth and strength of the connections he has forged with voters. Those connections, he said, will likely lead to an “overwhelming victory” in the general election.
Spears was first elected to the Board of Alders in 2013.