Courtesy of Vivian Felten

On Saturday afternoon, community members and Connecticut political leaders alike gathered outside a yard sign–peppered house on Sherman Avenue for the opening of the Elm City’s Democratic headquarters.

With 24 days to go until the 2018 midterm elections, many Connecticut Democrats gathered to celebrate the party planting its roots in New Haven. After casual conversation opened the event, attendees heard statements from a star-studded slate of statewide politicians and local leaders — all of whom stressed New Haven’s significance in determining Connecticut’s representatives. Speakers called for Democratic unity and commitment in the midterm election, which they described in part as a referendum on President Donald Trump and the policies and rhetoric coming out of the nation’s capital.

“We’re really hopeful that New Haven will do what it always does and bring the Democratic vote out,” Mayor Toni Harp told the News at the opening. “This election is a crucial election, not just for New Haveners, not just for Connecticut, but for the entire country.”

The event drew Democrats from up and down New Haven’s ballot. All three of New Haven’s representatives in Congress — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. as well as U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven — were in attendance. Murphy and DeLauro, who are up for reelection in November, were joined by a slew of incumbents and new hopefuls alike.

Harp gave the day’s opening address. She welcomed guests, thanked the city’s many Democratic organizers and stressed the importance of the Elm City’s Democratic vote in every election in the past and future.

Harp’s speech was followed by remarks from 10 speakers including Blumenthal, Murphy, gubernatorial hopeful Ned Lamont SOM ’80 and the Democratic nominee for attorney general, William Tong. The final speakers of the afternoon were DeLauro, who was met by uproarious applause, and Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-New York.

As each speaker briefly addressed the crowd, several common themes emerged throughout the afternoon.

First, after an oft-bitter primary season, the speakers uniformly stressed the importance of mobilizing behind all Democratic candidates and putting up a united front to fend off Republican challengers at all levels. Tong, a lawyer and state representative, was introduced and lauded by his rival in the primaries, Chris Mattei.

Mattei previously served as an assistant United States attorney and had never before run for elected office. On Saturday, with his three young children at his side, Mattei threw his support behind his onetime foe. Though speakers on the upcoming ballot made their own positions clear, they stressed the importance of voting Democratic all the way down the ballot, referring repeatedly to the contingent of hopeful and sitting representatives as a “team”.

The politicians also underscored the role of New Haven and the national stakes of the city’s influence. New Haven, an overwhelmingly Democratic city, has often made the critical difference in a state that is currently Democratically-controlled. The party’s control of the state, however, rests on thin margins, especially given the unpopularity of the outgoing governor, Democrat Dannel Malloy. In 2010, Malloy trailed his challenger before the Elm City’s votes were counted.  But by the time New Haven’s ballots were tallied, Malloy — who had won overwhelmingly in the city — had captured the victory.

“This is the team that’s fighting for Connecticut, fighting for Connecticut values,” Lamont said, gesturing towards the group of candidates to his side. “New Haven, you make the difference … this election’s going to make the difference and we can’t do it without you.”

Underlying the calls to action, however, was a sense of urgency at the state of politics on a national level. Several speakers explicitly referenced and denounced the Trump administration, as well as recent reports on targeted voter suppression in other states. The outcomes of the November ballot, they emphasized, will impact hot-button issues such as abortion rights, access to healthcare and the treatment of immigrants.

Murphy said this election represents a critical point in determining if the nation can preserve its democracy and systems of government.

“Don’t take for granted the experiment that we have been engaged in over the past 240 years,” Murphy said. “If we don’t win this election, we will put this country on a slow descent away from democracy.”

In highlighting the wide-ranging impacts of the upcoming election, the speakers often referenced pivotal moments and figures in the nation’s history. Several speakers highlighted the impact of the civil rights movement while Marks specifically drew on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight for civil rights and equality.

Above all, the day served as a call to action, as speaker after speaker asked attendees to help elect Democrats by voting and bringing family and friends to phone bank or knock on doors.

Democrats, DeLauro said, believe that “government has a moral responsibility.” In the days and weeks remaining, she called on New Haven to help perpetuate the “democratic ideal.”

New Haven’s Democratic headquarters are located at 180 Sherman Ave.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu .