In the wake of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s announcement that he will not seek another term, rumors about a possible run for governor by Mayor Toni Harp are again swirling as she considers a potential campaign.
According to city spokesman Laurence Grotheer, Harp is in the early stages of considering a gubernatorial run in 2018. Still, Grotheer emphasized that Harp has not yet given much thought to the possibility of a run for governor. He noted that she has many issues to focus on in the city, including finalizing the city’s budget and mobilizing a mayoral campaign for 2017.
But Grotheer also pointed out that many of her supporters have suggested over the past few years that she run for governor.
Elm City lawyer Dawud Amin made a Political Action Committee called SEE 2 2020 for Harp last summer. Rumors circulated last fall that Harp would use money from the PAC to fund a run for governor, and Amin told the News in December that Harp “would receive a lot of support” if she made a gubernatorial run.
However, Amin, who said he has spoken with Harp about her plans, would not confirm that Harp was considering such plans at this time.
“Mayor Harp’s official position is that she is only running for mayor,” Amin said.
Harp told the News last December — before Malloy’s announcement — that she had no plans to run for a state position and hoped to use PAC money to finance her future mayoral campaigns and to support the campaigns of alders who support her initiatives.
During Malloy’s term, Connecticut’s budget deficit has grown to well over $1 billion. He currently has a 29 percent approval rating, making him the second-least popular governor in the country, according to Morning Consult.
Malloy’s announcement leaves the Democratic side of the 2018 gubernatorial election wide open.
Harp was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, but moved to Chicago in the 1960s to attend Roosevelt University. She graduated with a degree in English and worked in the city as an urban planner after graduating. She later earned a degree from the Yale School of Architecture, and thereafter represented New Haven in the Connecticut State Senate for 20 years before becoming mayor in 2013.
She won reelection in 2015 handily, garnering 10 times more votes than the next closest competitor.
This year’s election is shaping up to be more competitive. Former alder and city employee Marcus Paca announced his candidacy in February, and plans to run on a platform of fiscal responsibility and accountability.
Paca is in the process of courting supporters, and recently received an endorsement from Harvey Feinberg, a history professor at Southern Connecticut State University.
Paca said Harp’s openness to a run for governor proves she is not totally committed to New Haven, contrasting it with his focus on New Haven.
“I don’t think New Haven is Mayor Harp’s priority. If she wants to return to Hartford, then she should try to do that,” he said, referring to Harp’s years as a state senator.
Grotheer noted that past New Haven mayors have run for governor while in office: In 2006, former New Haven mayor John DeStefano ran for governor while mayor, and after losing that election, served as mayor for another seven years.
Malloy began his first term as governor in 2011.