After Mayor Toni Harp’s landslide re-election primary victory, Elm City leaders and residents expressed optimism about the prospect of another term for the incumbent mayor.
The primary last week, in which Harp defeated challenger Marcus Paca by winning roughly three-quarters of the vote, secured the Democratic nomination for her in the general election come November, setting New Haven’s first female mayor up for a third consecutive term. Though voter turnout was low — roughly 20 percent of active registered Democrats in the city voted — her win elicited positive reactions from the community.
Rick Melita, a member of Harp’s campaign staff, said the win demonstrated a clear mandate for Mayor Harp to continue for another two years. He added that he expects her primary success to carry over for another win in the November general election.
“Mayor Harp has run on a platform of safety, education and employment. She is a leader in community-based policies and is helping New Haven improve day by day,” he said. “New Haven has a fraction of the murders as other cities within Connecticut, and in education, students’ scores are rising.”
He added that a combination of her platform, performance and body of work she has been able to accumulate over decades of public service brought her to the forefront of the election.
Melita also said the opposing candidate ran a grievance-based platform, alleging that Paca was a contrarian who was running because he was unhappy that he was fired from the Harp administration.
New Haven resident Sungmi Johnson ’21 echoed the same confidence in Harp, explaining that she has seen Harp involved in the community and at events on the New Haven Green or at her former high school, Wilbur Cross.
“I expected this win because of her presence in the community and because I personally did not hear too much about Paca,” Johnson said. “I also don’t think too many people were informed about the other candidate opposing her.”
Johnson said she was excited that Harp won by such a large margin and felt as though it reflected the wants of the community.
Darnell Goldson, a member of the New Haven Board of Education, said he was not surprised that Harp secured this victory. While he believed that Paca waged a spirited campaign, he said that it was not surprising that the mayor won.
“Honestly I believe it was several factors that led to the large win,” he said. “I think that voters genuinely are comfortable with her administration. Second, voters didn’t have a good enough reason to leave her for Mr. Paca despite his aggressive campaigning.”
Goldson added that history has shown that the odds are against Paca in the general election because most primary winners are able to increase their margins in the general election. Goldson does not think that Paca will move forward, but if he has other objectives besides winning, Paca may stay in the race. Paca has not yet said if he will run as an Independent in November’s general election.
Harp began her first term in office in 2014.
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