Nathalie Bussemaker

Democrat Toni Harp won a resounding victory on Tuesday to secure a third two-year term as mayor of New Haven.

Harp defeated unaffiliated candidate Marcus Paca and Working Families Party candidate Sarah Ganong by vast margins, winning 77.39 percent of the vote, or 8,293 votes. Paca and Ganong, neither of whom campaigned actively after the primary election on Sept. 12, won 14.86 and 7.75 percent of the vote, respectively.

“Campaigns are hard and they’re long and they take a lot of energy, but these moments are special,” said Vincent Mauro, chair of the New Haven Democratic Town Committee, during Harp’s victory party at Vanity Bar on Tuesday night. “She has led with brains and compassion. She cares about this city. She cares about this city’s future.”

The results were largely unsurprising, given that Harp and Paca had earlier faced off in September during the Democratic primary. In that race, Harp won 75 percent of the vote.

Harp’s margin of victory was greater than anticipated based on the primary election, but it still fell short of her dominant showing in the 2015 mayoral election. Harp won 89 percent of the vote in that election, in which she ran against unaffiliated candidates Ron Smith and Sundiata Keitezulu.

During her victory speech, Harp thanked her family, the Democratic Party of New Haven and everyone involved in her campaign.

“If all of our hard work isn’t enough, we had to deal with the cold and the wind and the rain together,” Harp said.

Harp also expressed enthusiasm about the Democrats’ strong showing in the city’s aldermanic elections. In January, the 30-member Board of Alders will be comprised of 28 Democrats and two alders who ran as independents.

Election night marked the end of a contentious campaign between Harp and Paca. In 2016, Paca was fired from his city job as director of labor relations. Shortly before the primary election, Harp filed a complaint against the Paca campaign with the State Elections Enforcement Commission that questioned the validity of the signatures Paca needed to collect to have his name on the ballot. Paca in turn alleged that Harp used her position of power to deter voters from supporting his campaign.

Paca told the News that while the results were disappointing, they did not come as a surprise given that he suspended campaign operations two weeks ago and ran against a career politician who has 40 years of experience in elected office in New Haven and the support of the “local Democratic machine.”

Despite his loss, Paca said he will move forward and continue his involvement in New Haven politics by creating a political action committee.

“I am continuing to promote the progressive values that we all hold dear by forming a political action committee that will be focused on bringing fresh, new [energetic] ideas to New Haven,” Paca said.

Ganong, the candidate for the Working Families Party, campaigned with the purpose of securing at least one percent of the vote. Breaking that threshold guarantees her party — which often endorses progressive Democratic candidates — a spot on future municipal ballots.

Despite the tension between Harp and Paca, voter turnout in the mayoral race was about 20 percent — or 10,716 of the 54,216 active voters registered in the city as of August. The relatively low turnout can likely be attributed to the fact that 2017 is not a major election year, and that many of the city’s ward races were uncontested. New Haven’s voting numbers match national trends, as an average of one in five voters turn out for local elections across the United States.

New Haven has elected Democratic mayors since 1953.

Ashna Gupta |

Nathalie Bussemaker |