Yale Daily News

Justin Elicker, who recently jumped into the 2019 New Haven mayoral race, has begun assembling the team that will lead him through what is expected to be a tight rematch with current Mayor Toni Harp.

Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, who served on the Board of Alders for two terms before entering the 2013 mayoral race, is currently the executive director of the New Haven Land Trust. He filed his papers for his second bid for the city’s top office run Jan. 16. Like in 2013, Elicker will be participating in the Elm City’s public financing program. In a Thursday afternoon press release, his campaign announced that it had tapped local politico Gage Frank to lead Elicker’s second go-around. In interviews with the News, Elicker and Frank both committed to running a grassroots campaign in the hopes of unseating Harp, a three-term incumbent.

“[Frank] showed to me that he shares the kind of values that I think are critical in running a professional campaign and implementing a strategy to win the election,” Elicker said.

Although Harp has not formally declared a run for a fourth consecutive term, she verbally committed to a run during an interview with the New Haven Independent. In 2013, Harp and Elicker were both in a packed field of candidates looking to replace longtime outgoing Mayor John DeStefano Jr. Harp defeated Elicker in the primary and then again in the general election — in which Elicker ran as an independent. But Elicker managed to earn 45 percent of the vote, outperforming expectations for the young candidate in the initially crowded field.

This time around, Elicker interviewed candidates for campaign manager who he believed matched his values and would propel him to a win. The city’s Democratic primary will be Sept. 10, but Elicker has made it clear that he is willing to run independently in the general election again if he does not win the primary.

Frank said he joined the team because he believes that Elicker represents the political will of New Haven’s residents.

“Simply put, I believe in his values,” Frank told the News. “And I believe in him.”

For Elicker, who represented Ward 10 on the Board of Alders for four years, the current stage of the campaign is still focused on “listening.” He is meeting with individuals and community leaders and has yet to move forward into active large-scale campaigning.

Both Elicker and Frank emphasized their commitment to running a campaign from the ground up. Elicker told the News that New Haven, with a population of 130,000 across 30 wards, is still small enough that he can reach out to all corners of the city and connect with voters on an individual level.

Frank echoed that traditional means of operating a grassroots campaign will be at the center of this effort. He highlighted the importance of knocking on doors and reaching out to people for their individual votes.

Frank is a native of nearby Bridgeport, which faces similar issues as New Haven. Both have grappled with lack of funding and struggling public school systems. Raised by a single mother and educated with the help of scholarships, Frank is also a veteran of local politics. He has worked on the efforts to elect state Sen. Ed Gomes and Sen. Marilyn Moore, as well as several state representatives.

Frank also has experience with mayoral races — he was a campaign coordinator for Mary-Jane Foster in her 2015 primary bid in Bridgeport.

“[Frank] is a lifelong Connecticut resident with a passion and commitment to progressive politics,” the press release said.

Elicker has led the New Haven Land Trust since 2014.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu