Just days after he suspended his campaign, independent mayoral candidate Marcus Paca took the stage at a debate at the Jepson School on Tuesday night. Mayor Toni Harp — who crushed Paca in the Democratic mayoral primary last month — did not attend the debate.
But Paca was joined on stage by Sarah Ganong, the candidate for the Working Families Party. On Monday, one of Harp’s campaign managers, Jesse Phillips, told the News that the mayor was scheduled as the keynote speaker for the Neighborhood Housing Service’s annual meeting at Anthony’s Ocean View at the same time as the debate, which was sponsored by the New Haven Democracy Fund.
The debate was moderated by Aaron Goode from the New Haven Votes Coalition. After both candidates gave opening statements, Ganong announced that she would not be answering any questions and had simply come to deliver opening remarks. For the rest of what can only loosely be described as a debate, the moderator Goode asked Paca questions about finance, education, safety and transparency.
“I’m running for mayor because the city needs a fresh, strategic vision, free of old-school machines, politics and favors,” Paca said in his opening statement.
The Harp campaign could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.
In her own opening statement, Ganong said she is running for mayor because she wants to help the Working Families Party make it onto the ballot in future elections.
If Ganong receives 1 percent of the vote in the mayoral election, she said, the Working Families Party will be allowed to stay on the ballot in future elections as long as the party meets the 1 percent threshold in each subsequent election.
“[A vote for me] is a vote to make all future votes matter more,” she said.
After the statements, Paca answered questions about a myriad of topics, including finance and education. Throughout the debate, Paca attacked Harp’s administration, criticizing her for appointing herself president of the New Haven Board of Education and having a 24-hour personal bodyguard at “the expense of a quarter-million dollars” of taxpayer money.
Additionally, he criticized what he called Harp’s “politicizing” the “future of our children,” attacking the city’s search for a new superintendent.
“There is a difference between good experience and bad experience,” Paca said, responding to Harp’s claims that he does not have enough experience to be mayor.
Whether Yale New Haven Hospital should be tax-exempt was another question discussed during the debate. At the moment, a majority of hospitals in Connecticut maintain nonprofit status and are tax-exempt. However, there has been recent discussion about removing this status for Yale New Haven Hospital and taxing it as a source of revenue for New Haven.
“Everything should be on the table at this point because we just can’t afford [to not put it on the table]” Paca said.
Harp is the 50th mayor of New Haven.
Ashna Gupta | firstname.lastname@example.org