Mayor Toni Harp endorsed Democratic businessman Ned Lamont SOM ’80 for governor at a press conference at Tweed-New Haven airport on Thursday afternoon. Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 quickly followed suit, announcing his own endorsement of Lamont on Saturday.

With the Connecticut Democratic Convention starting in less than two weeks on May 18, endorsements in the gubernatorial race are starting to stream in. Lamont has received support from a number of high-profile Connecticut politicians, including Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and former gubernatorial candidate and former West Hartford mayor Jonathan Harris. In the press conference, Harp called Lamont “the full package,” praising his business acumen, his support for transportation infrastructure projects and his education and teaching experience.

Harp also lauded Lamont for supporting New Haven’s efforts to expand Tweed-New Haven and said she chose the airport as the location of the press conference because she wanted to “underscore the need for Tweed.” Harp and other New Haven officials are trying to garner as much support as possible to urge the state legislature to pass House Bill 5537 next week — a bill that that would remove language in a state statute that limits the airport’s runway length to 5,600 feet.

“I’ve been eager to endorse the candidate who believes as I do that as go Connecticut cities so goes Connecticut,” Harp said at the press conference. “Ned Lamont understands that cities need infrastructure investment to spur economic development.”

Harp’s endorsement is coveted given that New Haven sends the most Democratic delegates of any city to the state party convention. Additionally, this endorsement comes after Harp was featured as one of 19 African-American women mayors in Essence Magazine, which deemed 2018 “The Year of the Black Woman Mayor.”

The press conference also generated questions about whether Harp might eventually serve as Lamont’s running mate. Harp neither denied nor confirmed whether she would accept the position if it were offered.

“I would have to think long and hard. It is a decision Ned has to make. I am not ready at this point. I don’t want to put any pressure on him,” she said at the press conference.

In his own endorsement, Catalbasoglu — who ran as an uncontested independent candidate during the 2017 aldermanic election, but ultimately decided to caucus with Democrats once he joined the Board of Alders — said Lamont is the candidate who can compete with “whatever outsider the Republicans nominate.” He praised Lamont’s business success and outspoken progressive attitude, saying that Lamont “stands up for whatever he believes in no matter the political consequences.”

Catalbasoglu told the News that Lamont’s “disassociation” with current Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration will be a “net positive for him.”

Lamont said in an interview at the end of April that he would give the Democrats the “best opportunity to look forward” and would represent a “fresh start for the state.”

He said his top three priorities as governor would be making the state budget process smoother, focusing on job growth by fixing state infrastructure and improving education at both the grade school and community college levels.

Ashna Gupta |